The complicated legacy of Jim Boeheim’s life at Syracuse
SYRACUSE COACH Jim Boheim never wanted a farewell tour with rocking chairs, monogrammed whiskey bottles and a tribute video.
The way it ended on Wednesday was far more fitting: an awkward press conference following a loss on the noon buzzer in Greensboro, NC, the ACC tournament city that Boheim had long mocked. All this is unceremoniously, like Boheim himself.
A few hours later, the school issued a release that did not include the word “retired”. There were no quotations from Boheim, only clumsy platitudes from suits that seemed to hope their florid prose could overcome uncomfortable realities: head coach Jim Boheim’s 47-year career and almost 60 years in Syracuse basketball as a player, assistant and head coach. the coach did not finish cleanly. Never intended.
“In Jim’s case, he was never completely sure,” former Duke coach Mike Krzyszewski told Sportzshala. “When you do something for as long as he is in the place where he did it, he was never completely sure.
“It was awkward the other day. Syracuse University, Syracuse Athletics and Syracuse Basketball, they should all be united in this ad. The fact that there is any ambiguity is wrong. It’s wrong. I hope if that’s the case…” I do not claim that this is the case, but I hope that everything will quickly improve and celebrate as it should be.
“It shouldn’t be awkward. In no case”.
Boheim’s departure proved fitting for a complex character who focused on winning games at the school he loved unconditionally. He made things simple, but he remained complex.
There are parts of a person that are easy to explain. His loyalty to Syracuse is unmatched; he will be remembered as the single most transformative figure in Syracuse University’s 150+ years of existence. He arrived on campus in 1962 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, took over as head coach during the presidency of Gerald Ford in 1976, and left during the administration of Joe Biden, arguably the only more recognizable Syracuse alumnus in the country.
“His career is so unique,” Krzyzewski said. “Because it’s not just longevity at school. This is longevity in the community. Jim’s influence on this community, along with [his wife] Julie, was huge. This is an incredibly unique career. You can’t say that someone has it.”
From the age of 18 to 78, Beheim lived in Syracuse. He was the head coach for 35 of the school’s 41 NCAA Tournament appearances, 1,015 wins, five Final Fours, and the 2003 National Championship. He helped usher in the glorious days of the Greater East and watched them fade away.
He wore glasses constantly, squinting through frames that ranged in style from a Coke bottle to thin wire as decades and generations passed by. From Louis and Bui to Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, John Wallace, Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams and Buddy Boheim. From Manley Field House to Carrier Dome to JWA Wireless Dome, Boheim’s smirk and upraised arms to officials were as recognizable around the school as any dean, major, or campus landmark. Only the February forecast was more consistent.
“He’s everything for this school,” former Providence coach, Syracuse assistant and now Sportzshala analyst Tim Welsh said late Wednesday night. “This tenure will never happen again. Today’s world has changed too much.”
But the sudden nature of Boheim’s departure hints at deeper complications. Boheim loved Syracuse unconditionally while maintaining a constant scowl throughout most of his tenure, part of the paradox he perpetuated.
He microphones attackedswore profusely – “Not 10 Fucking Games” — And Turned anxiety at a press conference into art. (This goes back to an era when something that went viral required antibiotics.) He also contrasted that caustic side tirelessly raises money for cancer researchshowing a random weak point trains his sons and spoke quietly to hundreds of cancer patients after beating prostate cancer in 2001.
He developed a reputation for being aloof but maintained open practice and locker rooms for decades. He often scolded his beat writers, but always answered the phone. He was torn apart early for not maximizing talent, but ended up being part of three U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalists.
Boheim has evolved over the years like any other coach, but has remained remarkably consistent – the same 2-3 zone for decades, the same training system and the dichotomy of being a consummate sports consumer who hasn’t watched many rival films.
He also never preached about ministry leadership. He never tried to sell self-help books. Boeheim was authentic long before it was a buzzword. He enjoyed coaching and winning basketball games at his alma mater. He poured everything into it.
He took charge of Syracuse in 1976 using an open job in Rochester at the time, with a simple and linear game plan that defined him: just win. Win and they will continue to have your back. Don’t fall for the fake caricature of the preacher and coach that has overtaken the sport.
“He never worried about things that didn’t matter,” said Sean Ford, director of the US men’s basketball team who worked with Boheim for decades. “He only cared about the things that affected the win and the game.” Beheim’s spirit was expressed in Interview New York Post in 2012. He noted that in his first game as head coach against Harvard, he overtrained and the Oranges led by one at halftime. He let the players play in the second half and Syracuse won by 20. Later in an interview, he expressed his coaching nature: “I’m a competitor. I like to win games. I like basketball and I like to win games.”
Boheim recruited better players than most, coached them well, and continued to win at the school he loved, the only place he knew. (It’s hard to remember covering football or lacrosse in Syracuse without seeing him sitting in the back row, as if track and field in Syracuse had become his pastime away from basketball in Syracuse.)
Along the way, he saw Syracuse move from independents to the Big East, and now to the ACC. He has coached 49 NBA players, and his coaching emotional pendulum has ranged from a heartbreaking Keith Smart winning a game for Indiana in the 1987 NCAA title game, to a 1996 upstart team that ambushed the Final Four in the Meadowlands, to a breakthrough the 2003 team that toppled Kansas. for the title.
“I hope that no matter what is done, he will be honored, but also he will remain a part of this university for life,” said Krzyszewski. “It would be a big mistake if this were not done. Big, big mistake. I spoke to him yesterday. He and I are close, and our families are close. This is a difficult time, even if you already know.”
Boheim was criticized early in his tenure for underachieving with talented teams—a 1991 NCAA Tournament loss to Richmond with 15 seeds stands out—and towards the end of his career, he was praised for being so effective in the Syracuse zone that he knocked off confuse opponents in the NCAA tournament. . (Boheim’s last two Final Fours finished 4th and 10th.)
It’s never been perfect. Along the way, Boheim survived two NCAA investigations (in 1992 and 2015) that resulted in a post-season suspension, witnessed the firing of longtime assistant Bernie Fine in 2011 amid allegations of abuse, and tragically killed a pedestrian while driving on a highway in 2019. . The police cleared him of any wrongdoing in the accident.)
The second batch of NCAA questions ended with the school stating in 2015 that Boheim needed to retire in three years. Boheim ignored the offer because the school looked the other way because he was winning. The game plan worked until it failed.
In the end, Boheim just couldn’t live up to what he focused on throughout his tenure: winning games. He admitted he was excited to be coaching his sons in 2021-22 even though the Oranges went 16-17. With a revamped roster this year, Syracuse lost to Colgate and Bryant to end the season (17–15) with five losses in six games. Boheim, 78, grumbled about the NIL and schools buying teams as the Oranges missed out on the standings.
The school immediately appointed former star Adrian Autry, head assistant since 2011, to replace Boheim. It’s a challenging task that comes down to living up to the legend that not only set the program’s expectations, but also defined the school.
“The ending needs to be better,” said Krzyszewski. “Maybe we can do it right in a week or two days. It is there that everyone should know what his future is. It should be in Syracuse so that all the fans and everyone know that he will always be a part of it. I can tell you that it helped us and our fans. It really helped the transition. This shows the level of support for the new person. Adrian is a great choice.”
It is doubtful that Boeheim went far from the school; instead of a dream home in the Caribbean, he recently bought a $5 million dream home on Skaneateles Lake, about 20 miles from the city.
But Jim Boheim’s ending was a fitting imperfection for a man who never wanted a fuss. Out of a conference tournament where he has always been an underdog, Jim Boheim’s last appearance was an evasive press conference in which he criticized the media for not realizing that he had delivered his weekend speech.
His farewell tour went through an awkward news release, the perfect cavalier end for a coach who was never in the mood for a long goodbye.