SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jim Boeheim has pretty much experienced everything during his long coaching tenure at Syracuse – Big East titles, Final Fours, a national championship, NCAA investigations and Hall of Fame induction.
And yet, as he begins season No. 42 at his alma mater, Boeheim is about to experience something new. The toddler he once brought to shoot at a toy basket during a preseason media day will be on the opposing team when the Orange open their season against Cornell on Friday night.
Oldest son Jimmy Boeheim is a freshman forward for the Big Red.
“I just want him to play well,” Boeheim said. “That’s all I care about. I just want him to be ready. I’ll try not to think about it. I’m pretty much just worried about my team.”
At least there seems to be a happy medium. Wife Juli will stroll into the Carrier Dome wearing a shirt made specifically for the occasion. It has Boeheim vs. Boeheim on the front, Big Red down one sleeve and Orange down the other, and “I can’t lose” inscribed on the back.
“I’m kind of pinching myself, very excited,” she said. “Syracuse is supposed to win and should win and always has won in this game, so we don’t want that to change. I know I’m going to be a nervous wreck.
“We want Jimmy to play well and Syracuse to win.”
For Jimmy Boeheim, it’ll be the realization of a lifelong goal.
“It’s the beginning of my collegiate career. It’s something I’ve dreamed about my whole life,” he said. “Going home adds to it, I guess, but I’ve never let nerves get to me too much.”
It’s the start of the final chapter of the Boeheim era at Syracuse, and it certainly promises to be unique. Cornell is always on the schedule and next year Boeheim will become the college coach of his younger son, Buddy, a guard who already has accepted an offer to play for his dad .
“It’s his dream come true. I keep reminding myself that,” Juli said of their youngest son. “I am very happy and we feel so blessed for the situation, even though I know it will have its moments.”
No surprise there. The kid bleeds Orange like nobody else.
“He’d cry his eyes out for two and three hours after a loss,” said Juli, who used to cart her sons to the downtown YMCA on Saturday mornings in the dead of winter when they were toddlers so they could learn the nuances of the game their dad had long since mastered. “Jimmy cried, too, when we lost, but he could handle it better.”
Boeheim will turn 73 later this month, which means he’ll be nearing his 78th birthday when Buddy finishes college. That is not a concern for Boeheim, who continues a workout regimen during the season that includes two sessions of Pilates weekly.
“I think you should never make anything about age in this country. I don’t know why we ever did,” Boeheim said. “If anything, I think I’m more motivated now than I was when I was younger.
“Obviously, I’m not going to coach forever, but you want to do the best you can, and we’re going to try to do it.”
The Orange won both of their preseason games but struggled early in each against Division II foes before rallying and winning handily. Cornell represents a step up from those exhibitions.
Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara, a star as a freshman on Boeheim’s 2003 national championship team, figures he knows exactly what will unfold at tipoff on Friday night because the script will never change, no matter who is on the opposing bench.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit mixed, the sense of pride hoping he (Jimmy) does well, just not too well to beat us,” McNamara said. “Coach is who he is. At the end of the day, he wants to win, and that, above all else, is going to overpower anything.”