CLOSE Jim Boeheim looking forward to juggling his schedule to see all his kids play college basketball. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
SYRACUSE – Juli and Jim Boeheim’s refrigerator in their suburban Fayetteville home is a blaze of autumn colors.
Specifically, red, yellow and orange.
They represent the colors of the teams the Boeheim children will play basketball for this season: Red for Jimmy, a sophomore at Cornell University; yellow for Jamie, a freshman at the University of Rochester; and orange, of course, for her twin brother Jackson who is playing at Syracuse University for the family’s Naismith Hall of Fame father who begins his 43rd season as head coach.
Yes, the Boeheim kids who grew up decked out in orange bouncing basketballs at their father’s knee are in college now.
Jimmy, Jamie and Jackson or, thanks to their mom’s love of nicknames, J.J., Sissy and Buddy.
It means New York’s First Family of Basketball will be juggling schedules, hitting the road and loving every minute of it like never before.
Luckily for mom and dad (and Lulu, the family dog), their kids chose to play close to home in a centralized triangle encompassing Syracuse, Ithaca and Rochester.
If in a gym in any of those places this winter, you’re likely to bump into a Boeheim bouncing a basketball.
Juli and Jim’s motto: Let the Fridge be With You.
“That’s my calendar, before I put something else in my personal calendar, I refer to that,’’ Juli said. “Everything revolves around that. It’s really crazy, but it’s really awesome.’’
They’ve got game: Jim Boeheim gives scouting reports on his kids Buddy, Jimmy and Jamie
Like plotting a last-second shot, Jim said having both parents at each of their kids’ games is possible. Of course, he won’t miss any of Buddy’s, starting with SU’s season tipoff Tuesday at home against Eastern Washington.
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“We can see Jimmy on Friday night at Cornell when we’re home on a Saturday, and if Sissy is home, they would play Sunday,’’ he said. “There are a lot of weekends we’ve scouted. We’re excited about it, it’s going to be fun.’’
And one of the great stories of the college basketball season, particularly Buddy suiting up for his ageless 73-year-old dad, the longest tenured coach in Division I who has led the Orange to five Final Fours and one national title.
“I think it’s a sign of all our hard work and dedication to the game,” said oldest son Jimmy Boeheim, who faces his dad and brother on Dec. 1 when Cornell plays at the Carrier Dome. “We’ve played it our whole lives and it’s kind of neat seeing it all come together like this.”
Growing up Boeheim
In this June 8, 2003, file photo, parade grand marshal Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, left, waves to fans with his wife, Juli, and son, Jimmy during the International Boxing Hall of Fame Parade of Champions in Canastota, N.Y. (Photo: KEVIN RIVOLI, AP)
The Boeheims’ public life and marriage, the second for Jim, started 21 years ago.
The couple met in Lexington, Kentucky at a Derby Day party and married in 1997. Within a few years, their home was filled with the sounds of children’s laughter — and cries.
While the kids were exposed to many other sports — baseball for the boys and swimming, softball and lacrosse for Jamie — basketball was the center of their lives.
Starting with a Little Tikes plastic hoop in a playroom and graduating to a half regulation court built in the family basement, the Boeheim kids got plenty of practice against each other.
“Before we had the court, we had a playroom with a little short hoop and plastic ball and Jimmy and Buddy would go at it,’’ Jamie said. “One would end up crying and everything. Once we got the court, we’d play a lot of H-O-R-S-E. Buddy would beat me every time and I’d get so upset, I’d start crying then.’’
Staff file photo: Coach Jim Boeheim kisses his two year old son Jack moments before the dedication ceremony Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002 at the Carrier Dome. (Photo: Danese Kenon)
Over time and many teams, those tears turned into cheers. Turns out the Boeheim kids had game.
All three starred at Jamesville-Dewitt, a public school southeast of downtown that produced SU athletes such as Danny Schayes, Robert Drummond, Andy Rautins and Scott Schwedes.
Jimmy was All-Central New York and averaged 22.3 points as a senior, Buddy was Central New York Large Schools Player of the Year as a junior averaging 26.3 points and 9.8 rebounds (the Red Rams lost to Irondequoit in the state semifinals in 2017) while Jamie led the Jamesville-Dewitt girls team to three state championships and was named state tournament MVP as a senior.
While 30,000 fans at the Carrier Dome know Jim Boeheim as the spirited, acerbic-witted, hard-to-please coach whose teams have made 18 NCAA Sweet 16s, people don’t always get to see the sweeter side of Jim Boeheim the dad.
Head coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse shares a moment with his son James after defeating Kansas 81-78 during the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Final Four Tournament on April 7, 2003 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Craig Jones, Getty Images)
“I just think it’s great to be able to watch your kids play sports, doesn’t matter how old you are, and watching them play baseball, softball, and basketball all these years has been a great experience,’’ Boeheim said. “All of them are good kids, all have worked hard. I never expected them to be DI players but they all fell into it, all had good size which helps, and they like to play.’’
Jim is quick to credit Juli for facilitating their children’s athletic and educational growth.
<img src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2018/11/01/PROC/f028c314-3ac0-4c60-b8f0-bb8e74e09e4d-roc-56lbcyo66691hbkmu28l_original.jpg?width=180&height=240&fit=bounds&auto=webp” alt=”Juli and Jim Boeheim’s annual “Basket Ball,” part of their foundation work, attracts some of the biggest names in sports and has raised millions for a wide range of charitable causes.” width=”180″ />
Juli and Jim Boeheim’s annual “Basket Ball,” part of their foundation work, attracts some of the biggest names in sports and has raised millions for a wide range of charitable causes. (Photo: File)
Running in three different directions while helping oversee the Boeheim Foundation, whose annual “Basket Ball’’ has raised $6 million for myriad charities, is like running a continuous fast break.
But at the core is a regular family, Juli said, albeit a very famous one.
“I always say people are probably really disappointed after they meet us, there’s not much here other than the norm and that’s what we want. I mean what else is there?’’ she said. “We’re experiencing the highs, the lows and the joys and everything our kids feel, we feel, just like every other parent. We want successes for our kids and for them to be good, healthy, happy kids.’’
Jim has an older daughter, Elizabeth, who lives in Montana where she hikes and kayaks and he likes to visit to go fishing. Jim was 42 when he and his first wife Elaine Boeheim adopted Elizabeth and “it changed my whole life,’’ he said.
Jim Boeheim stands with his family, wife Julie, daughter Elizabeth and son James, after defeating Kansas 81-78 during the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Final Four Tournament on April 7, 2003. (Photo: Craig Jones, Getty Images)
The blessings — and demands — of parenthood taught Jim Boeheim not to brood over the losses so much, enjoy the wins more, hear the critics less.
“She’s still paramount in my life, all she’s done for me, putting things in perspective,’’ Boeheim said of Elizabeth. “She was the first thing that set me on the right path and when these three came along, I was used to it, but not quite. Three is a lot different than one.’’
Like taking a 3-pointer vs. a free throw but oh so worth it.
The Boeheim children were quite young when their dad was being honored for lifetime achievements and facing difficult life challenges.
His prostate cancer battle in 2001, the christening of the Jim Boeheim Court in 2002, Syracuse’s national championship season in 2003, his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Buddy Boeheim was 2 and cried during the entire court-naming ceremony. Now he’ll be playing on it. Buddy can vaguely remember the national title victory over Kansas. He watched from home with his sister and their babysitter.
“I just remember at the end of the game and how excited we were, I really didn’t know why but I knew it was something important,’’ he said. “Going to the games throughout my life, I never thought of it like my dad is this celebrity coach, I just thought of him as my dad.’’
Dad first, coach second
Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim will have to be creative as he tries to see his three children play college basketball this year. (Photo: JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE)
While the Boeheim kids had — and have — great opportunities hanging around the Syracuse team and facilities, their greatest resource is their father who has 1,027 wins (not counting vacated victories).
But Jim isn’t one to heavily critique his children’s play. No car ride lectures, no mapping plays on a napkin at the dinner table.
“He’s done an amazing job of doing that, not pushing us,’’ said Jimmy Boeheim, who like his siblings gets a kick out of seeing old photos of their dad as a Syracuse player in the 1960s wearing high-knee socks and black-frame glasses. “Of course, I always love to hear from him in terms of basketball, he is a Hall of Fame coach, so when he does have advice, I’m listening. But just outside of basketball, he’s been a great father, teaching me a lot of valuable lessons mostly about being a good person.’’
Just regular parents: Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim and his wife Juli Boeheim, top, watch their daughter Jamie play in the state high school championship in March 2018. (Photo: Hans Pennink, AP)
Jamie said her dad will give “pointers’’ regarding her jump shot or developing her off hand.
“But he’s never texted me or yelled at me,’’ she said. “Most of my friends have worse parents when it comes to that stuff.’’
Growing up in a coaching fish bowl has required developing some thick skin. Hecklers can be cruel on their dad during rough patches, from critics of his 2-3 zone to tabloid gossip about his personal life. It’s impossible for the kids, plugged into social media, not to hear things.
And when an opponent learns that a Boeheim is on the other team, they often try harder against them.
“They’re pretty tough,’’ Jim said. “They hear things when they’re playing, and it motivates them to play well. It’s part of the deal. They know that.’’
Jamie Boeheim is a freshman at the University of Rochester. She said her dad, SU coach Jim Boeheim, offers her tips but never over does it, he’d rather just be her father, not her coach. (Photo: JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE)
During the 2014-15 season when SU was serving NCAA sanctions, Jamie was heckled during the state basketball tournament. She shut the individual up by sinking a basket.
“I know people will say things, but I got over that stage a long time ago,’’ she said.
How their dad does his best to separate the job from his home life has been a great lesson, Buddy said. One year after being ineligible for the NCAA tournament, the Orange made the Final Four as a No. 10 seed in 2015-16.
“As much as it affected him as a person, when it came to us, he left the basketball stuff aside,’’ Buddy said. “It says a lot how he is character-wise and how he is as a family man. He always values his family more than anything and he really showed it through those times.’’
As a mother, Juli Boeheim once worried how her husband’s high-profile position affected her children.
“I told them once, ‘I know this isn’t easy being part of what dad does, the highs and lows.’ They looked at me and said, ‘Mom, what are you talking about? This has been awesome,’ ‘’ she said. “That told me that things we’ve experienced haven’t negatively affected them, that never once did they wish their dad had done something else. That meant everything to me to hear that.’’
It was also great to hear where the kids had chosen to play in college, close to home.
Courting a famous name
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As the most studious in the family, Jimmy had a goal of playing at an Ivy League school. After a year at New Hampton prep, the 6-8 forward was on Cornell’s radar and with the proximity to home “I couldn’t turn it down,’’ he said. “It was the perfect scenario.’’
As perfect as hitting an opening 3-point shot in front of the Orange bench when Cornell played at the dome last season.
“Pretty surreal,’’ said Jimmy, who averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds as a freshman for coach Brian Earl.
Surreal is also a good way to describe Jamie enrolling at the UR and playing for the Yellowjackets.
Jim Boeheim, who grew up in Lyons, Wayne County, twice considered joining the UR program, first as a player in 1962 and then as a head coach candidate for the men’s team in 1976. A walk-on player at Syracuse and later assistant coach, Boeheim, legend has it, used UR as leverage to land the Syracuse job vacated by Roy Danforth.
<img src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2018/11/01/PROC/38e1581e-221b-45f2-9162-f8ed10bc1c58-Boeheim.jpg?width=180&height=240&fit=bounds&auto=webp” alt=”Jamie Boeheim, who won three state titles in high school, is a freshman forward at UR. “During my overnight, I could just tell the girls were talented and it was a quality D-3 school. I just thought it was a perfect fit for me,” she said of school her dad, SU coach Jim Boeheim, once considered attending and coaching.” width=”180″ />
Jamie Boeheim, who won three state titles in high school, is a freshman forward at UR. “During my overnight, I could just tell the girls were talented and it was a quality D-3 school. I just thought it was a perfect fit for me,” she said of school her dad, SU coach Jim Boeheim, once considered attending and coaching. (Photo: University of Rochester)
On Jamie’s recruiting visit, her dad’s memory was backpedaling in time as he toured the historic Palestra thinking about life’s twists and turns. The UR job he didn’t take went instead to Mike Neer, who won 563 games and one Division III national title in 34 seasons.
“I didn’t even know he applied to be a head coach here and interviewed,’’ said Jamie, a 6-1 forward and psychology major who is expected to contribute immediately for Yellowjackets coach Jim Scheible. “He kept saying, ‘It’s the same, nothing has changed.’ For me, everything I saw I really loved. During my overnight, I could just tell the girls were talented and it was a quality DIII school. I just thought it was a perfect fit for me.’’
Her twin brother feels the same about Syracuse.
That one of the boys would someday play for their dad was a “playful dream,’’ Juli Boeheim said, but how realistic was it? Would Jim retire before they were college age? Would they be good enough to play at a Top 25 program?
Those questions have been answered.
After longtime assistant Mike Hopkins left for the University of Washington in March 2017 and Buddy committed to Syracuse six months later after a breakout summer on the elite AAU circuit, Jim Boeheim signed a contract extension that shelved his plan to retire last April.
It’s now full steam ahead with Buddy Ball.
“It’s certainly a dream come true for Buddy and all of us, really,’’ Juli Boeheim said. “I think it’s going to go well because they’re super close and Buddy has the utmost respect for his dad. The thing about Jim is that just when I think he’s reached so many heights — I mean, what else is there for him to accomplish? — we get this. And I told Buddy that for the first time ever in his basketball career, we can ask the coach ‘What the heck were you thinking?’ ‘’
Orange dream comes true
Buddy Boeheim works on his jump shot during practice at Syracuse University where he will play for his father, Jim Boeheim. Buddy has been known to take up to 1,000 shots a day and his dad says his release is among the best he’s ever seen. (Photo: JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE)
From his days as a ball boy wearing an oversized Orange jersey, Buddy had a burning desire to play for his dad at Syracuse.
At around age 5, he started watching game tapes. He wore out basketballs working in the family gym.
“He’ll shoot 400, 500 shots on an ordinary day but he’ll shoot 1,000 on some days,’’ Jim said. “He’ll go downstairs at 10 o’clock at night and shoot for two hours. He’s got a really good release, probably the best form I’ve seen in anybody in a long time. If you have that form and work at it, you got a chance to be a really good player.’’
Still, it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 before Buddy headed off to Brewster Academy prep school in New Hampshire that Jim Boeheim was convinced his son had the game to play at Syracuse.
Ten-year-old Jack Boeheim, right, the son of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, and 9-year-old Griff Hopkins, the son of assistant coach Mike Hopkins, watch the team during an NCAA college basketball practice Wednesday, March 24, 2010, in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP)
That summer, Buddy, a 6-5 guard, averaged 12.2 points for the Albany City Rocks in the NIKE EYBL league, making 27 of 57 (47.4 percent) of his 3-pointers against the top players in the country.
“I didn’t know if he’d get here and I wouldn’t recruit my son unless he could play,’’ Jim said. “The NIKE summer league … that gave me a good indication he was good enough. I remember (North Carolina’s) Roy Williams was watching and he made seven 3s against Penny Hardaway’s team, and Roy walked over to me and said, ‘You better recruit that kid.'”
Buddy’s prep season only confirmed his ability, as he was captain of a 26-7 team featuring nine players that signed with Division I teams. While 10 schools, including Gonzaga, were interested in the youngest Boeheim, this wasn’t a recruiting war they were going to win.
As for father and son, there was almost an unspoken agreement that Buddy would don SU colors and wear his dad’s old number 35.
“He left it all to me,’’ Buddy said. “He really didn’t talk about it too much, we kind of both knew that I always wanted to come here.’’
His twin sister, who is two minutes older and was always taller until high school, is a bit in awe of the whole thing.
“In high school I remember Buddy being good, but it was like ‘No way he’ll go to Syracuse,'” Jamie said. “But then he went to prep school and turned into this person, like, I don’t even know him, he’s this man. I feel like ‘You’re not my brother, who are you?'”
Buddy Boeheim during practice at Syracuse University where he will play for his father, Jim Boeheim. (Photo: JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE)
Having played plenty of pickup against Buddy, Jimmy Boeheim can attest to his brother’s burgeoning talent.
“He’s just a great shooter. He doesn’t miss much from 3 and that fuels the rest of his game, keeping opponents guessing,’’ Jimmy said. “He’s worked so hard, harder than anyone I know over the last four, five years, so he deserves it.’’
While there was talk Buddy would redshirt, he will instead play as a true freshman and because of his 3-point range he’s expected to contribute.
SU, ranked No. 16 in the AP’s preseason poll, returns all five starters from a Sweet 16 team, including guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard. But 3-point shooting wasn’t a strength (ACC-worst 31 percent) and Buddy Boeheim and sophomore Elijah Hughes will be counted on to improve that critical area.
Buddy hit six 3-pointers and averaged 16 points in two exhibition games.
Dozens of college basketball coaches have coached their sons, including John Thompson (Ronny), Bobby Knight (Patrick), Jerry Tarkanian (Danny), John Beilein (Patrick), even Adolph Rupp (Adolph, Jr.) and Press Maravich (Pete).
This is new ground for Jim Boeheim who has talked with others.
“They all liked it and had a good experience with it,’’ he said. “Their advice was ‘Have fun and enjoy it.’ You have to treat your son like any player on your team and if he can help you then he’s going to play, and I think Buddy can help us.’’
Buddy has an “aw-shucks’’ persona that his parents said is genuine. He is “low maintenance,” said his dad, good at handling pressure and expectations.
“Off the court we’ll be father-son but on the court he’s another coach of mine, and I’ll expect him to be hard on me when he needs to be in order to help me grow as a player,’’ Buddy said.
Seeing his dad’s passion for Syracuse basketball still burning intensely after a 50-plus year association with the university is inspiring, he said.
“It’s just his love of the game and competitive nature he brings,” Buddy said. “It’s something that will never change in him.”
Juli Boeheim, right, wife of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and mother of Cornell player Jimmy Boeheim, talks with fans before the start of a game Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Boeheim is wearing a specially made shirt to commemorate this game where her husband is coaching Syracuse and her son is playing for Cornell. (Photo: Nick Lisi, AP)
But will coaching his son in the pressure cooker of NCAA basketball change the way Jim Boeheim approaches his job?
“Once the season starts, you live and die with how the team does,’’ he said. “I hope Buddy plays well and I hope he’s good, like any dad would. But my job and what I’m focused on is ‘What’s our team doing?’ That’s what I get paid for and what our fans expect.’’
As for Juli Boeheim, she has a new SUV and the Syracuse-Ithaca-Rochester triangle plugged into her GPS. And those calendars on the fridge? Dec. 1 is circled in red. Cornell vs. Syracuse. Boeheim vs the Boeheims.
“At least last year broke me in a little,’’ she said. “I’ll be on the edge of my seat, really praying both boys have success. Every time I think about it, it takes my breath away as a mom. I don’t want to stress so much and miss the joy of what this is.’’
It is a basketball love story. A true family affair.
They’ve got game: Jim Boeheim gives scouting reports on his kids Buddy, Jimmy and Jamie
According to his mom, Juli, who is big on nicknames, here’s how Jackson Boeheim came to be known as Buddy: “It was Buddy Head in the beginning, because his hair was just crazy on his head and he was just this big lug with this big fat face and crazy hair. So, it was Buddy Head, and then we dropped the Head.’’
His oldest friends call him Jack, but “Buddy Boeheim” just rolls off the tongue and stuck.
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