Jim Boeheim caused a stir in February when the now-former Syracuse coach accused Miami and 2 other ACC rivals of “buying” their teams.

The comment wasn’t meant as a compliment.

But the Hurricanes’ Jim Larrañaga should take it as one.

That’s because Boeheim’s definition of “buying” players is as antiquated as the 2-handed set shot.

He’s still thinking in terms of Nevin Shapiro getting the “U” spanked by the NCAA for paying off football players in 2011. These days, when booster John Ruiz shells out 6-figure deals to basketball stars Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack through his company LifeWallet, it’s all done with the NCAA’s blessing.

What was once taboo is now above board and legal thanks to the transfer portal and legislation allowing “student-athletes” to earn income off their name, image and likeness. Larrañaga has simply done a better job than most of embracing and adapting to the changing landscape of college athletics.

It’s a big reason his team is in Kansas City preparing to play top-seeded Houston in the Sweet 16 on Friday and Boeheim is back home in Syracuse stewing about being pushed into retirement before he was ready.

But attracting talented players into the program – or in the case of Wong, keeping them from leaving – is only half the battle. 

The more difficult piece to the puzzle in the era of college free agency is building chemistry and convincing those players to work as hard for each other as they do at building their own brand.

That was a concern last summer after Pack arrived from Kansas State armed with an NIL package worth significantly more than the one Wong received the year before. 

Questions about the 2 sharing the same backcourt quickly arose when Wong tried to get LifeWallet to sweeten his deal, threatening to enter the transfer portal if it wasn’t before eventually deciding to stay with the Hurricanes.

But they’ve done more than coexisted. They’ve thrived.

“Me and Nijel, we’re great friends,” Wong said Thursday at the Hurricanes’ pregame media session in Kansas City. “He’s just a great person to be around.”

They’ve also combined to become the engine that has driven Miami into the Sweet 16 for the 2nd straight Tournament, the first time in school history that’s happened.

Wong, the newly minted ACC Player of the Year, is averaging 16.1 points and 3.3 assists per game while Pack is averaging 13.4 points and 2.4 assists while leading the team with 76 3-pointers.

“Nijel is a great player to play with. He’s an easy-going person and he can transition to any role he plays in,” Wong said. “He’s just a great shooter and he likes to pass and play defense at the other end too. So he’s just been a great piece to the team.”

While NIL deals might be a hot topic of conversation among the media and fans on social media, the subject rarely comes up in the Hurricanes’ locker room.

“There’s no bad blood,” senior wing Jordan Miller said. “At the end of the day, everyone is happy for whoever gets whatever NIL opportunity comes their way.”

That’s an attitude fostered by their coach.

Larrañaga might be a 70-something old guy, but he’s not screaming at any clouds or telling his kids to get off his lawn. He’s way ahead of the curve when it comes to managing a roster and keeping his players focused in the era of NIL.

“Here’s what I did and this is how I handled it,” he said. “First of all, my coaching staff and I have nothing to do with NIL. I use this analogy: I asked our players if they’ve ever seen Steph Curry in a Subway commercial and everybody has. I said, ‘OK, that’s NIL.’ But Subway doesn’t tell Steve Kerr how to run his Golden State Warriors team and no one’s going to tell me how to run my basketball program. 

“When you’re coming into the gym, you’re going to play the Miami way. When you work with someone else that’s willing to sponsor you, great. That’s like college basketball coaches who have shoe contracts. You can make some additional money. That’s what NIL was made to do and that’s what it’s doing.”

At least it is with the Hurricanes.

They’ve already won 27 games and a share of the ACC regular-season championship, and can earn a return trip to the Elite 8 by beating Houston on Friday.

It’s a success you could say was bought, as Boeheim so eloquently put it, or simply the product of a coach and program that have figured out how to play by the new rules faster than most of their rivals.

Either way, they’re getting plenty of bang for their buck.