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National | Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Kansas' Roy Williams began this year's college basketball season sharing a dubious distinction: They were the most successful coaches in the game never to win a national title.

Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003

Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Kansas' Roy Williams began this year's college basketball season sharing a dubious distinction: They were the most successful coaches in the game never to win a national title.

The two friends finished the season with their teams facing each other in the NCAA championship last week, and it wasn't clear until the final second of the game which team would take that monkey off its coach's back.

Mr. Boeheim's Orangemen prevailed as a last-second desperation shot from Kansas senior Kirk Hinrich fell short, giving Syracuse an 81-78 victory in one of only two NCAA championship games this close in 14 years.

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Before the game, both coaches scoffed at the idea that their careers wouldn't be complete without a championship ring. Among active coaches, Mr. Boeheim's .742 career winning percentage is surpassed only by Mr. Williams's .805. They have coached in seven Final Fours between them, with Mr. Boeheim's 1987 team losing the championship on a last-second shot by Indiana's Keith Smart. "Am I happy?" Mr. Boeheim said after beating Kansas. "Yeah, but I'm the same coach I was a few minutes ago."

As Syracuse players celebrated their victory on the court, the future Hall-of-Fame coaches shook hands warmly. "I told him the same thing [former Indiana coach] Bob Knight told me in 1987," Mr. Boeheim said later. "'You'll be back someday.'"

Timothy Lamer
Timothy Lamer

Tim is managing editor of WORLD magazine.

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