Gerry McNamara Looks To Lead Syracuse To Another Title
Nine years ago, Gerry McNamara was a freshman at Syracuse University, helping the team win its first-ever NCAA Title. He led the team through the regional in Boston to the Final Four in New Orleans, where Syracuse beat Kansas, 81-78.
Fast forward to the present, McNamara is an assistant coach with Syracuse, who will face Ohio State in Boston in the East region, one win away from the Final Four, which will be in New Orleans.
“It’s been great. I’ve been with these guys for three years now, this particular group. They work extremely hard, especially the seniors, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, and some of our walk-on guys, not a lot of guys get the credit that they should. It’s fun to be around these guys. They are a great group, great kids. It makes it easy to come to work every day,” McNamara told Jared Ginsberg of Class Act Sports exclusively.
McNamara, who is no stranger to buzzer beaters having hit several during his career at Syracuse- most notably during the 2006 Big East Tournament, held his breath when Wisconsin launched a desperation three-point attempt in the closing seconds of Syracuse’s 64-63 win in the Sweet 16.
“Don’t go in. That’s what’s on my mind. It’s a helpless feeling when the ball is not in your hands. Coming down the stretch, if you are on that defensive end you never know what can happen. You just have to hope to play great defense. Pretty helpless feeling when you are watching it on the receiving end,” he said.
A clutch player during his days and a true class act, McNamara said he would still rather be winning in the final seconds than having to hit a miracle shot to win a game.
“I’d rather be up. At the end of the day you are winning the game, that’s really what it is about, putting yourself in position to win. A lot of times it is tougher to make a last second shot than it is to stop someone. More often than not, a last-second shot is going to be a forced, difficult shot- it was against Wisconsin- last second shots are not easy. If it’s coming down to the end, I’d rather have that lead,” McNamara told Class Act Sports.
McNamara, who was at Syracuse from 2002-2006, is in the top five of many offensive categories for his career. He ranks first in minutes played (4,799), free throw percentage (88.7) and three point field goals made (400), while his 2,099 career points are fourth in school history.
For Syracuse to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, McNamara said the team needs to set the tone defensively against Ohio State.
“Defensively I think has been our key all year. When we haven’t played well offensively, the consistent factor is how we have been active defensively. If we can do that and put ourselves in a position to win, I like our chances,” he said.
After going undrafted in the 2006 NBA draft and playing in Europe, McNamara came home in 2009 where he has been on the Syracuse basketball staff ever since. He said he isn’t quite ready to take the leap to head coach just yet.
”Not in the near future. I am worried about the present and Syracuse University and hopefully making a little run here and going to the final four if we are fortunate enough to do that. Well see what the horizon has ahead,” he said.