adidas track pants Jimmy Boeheim is proud to be his father’s son

Jimmy Boeheim asked his mom to sit behind the Cornell bench. It was his only request for Friday, the day he will enter the Carrier Dome not as a Syracuse basketball fan who has spent his entire life cheering for the Orange, but as a member of the Cornell basketball team about to face his hometown team in the season opener.

Juli Boeheim considered her eldest son’s proposition. She spoke at a recent function and put the possibility up for a vote. Nobody, she said, wanted to see the wife of the Syracuse basketball coach sitting behind the Cornell bench, even it meant supporting their son.

The dynamic between Syracuse and neighborly Cornell gained a layer of intrigue when Jimmy Boeheim, the first son of Jim and Juli, pledged his immediate future to the Big Red. Jimmy, a freshman at Cornell this season, had longed for an Ivy League basketball career for years, after his initial infatuation with playing at Syracuse yielded to twin considerations of academic interests and an understanding of his place in the basketball universe.

He spent last Sunday night at home, but before he returned to school, he scrawled “Go Big Red” on an SU basketball schedule fixed to the refrigerator. There has been some gentle smack talking between friends on the SU basketball team. His best friend, Adrian Autry, Jr., has warned him not to take a shot in the right corner, where he sits during Orange games, or he will suffer the “chirping” consequences.

His dad has said little publicly about what is about to transpire in the Dome, his admission on ACC media day that it will be a difficult and unusual game his lone concession to his conflicting emotions.

“That’s what he does when he’s coaching against friends. He just doesn’t consider it. He says ‘I have to block it out or I can’t do my job,'” Juli Boeheim said. “He’s probably working on doing that with Jimmy. He’s not going to get there, but he’s attempting to, I’m sure.”

His son, too, is sorting through his thoughts. Jimmy Boeheim considers the peculiarity of playing his first college basketball game in an arena he so intimately knows,
adidas track tops Jimmy Boeheim is proud to be his father's son
on a basketball court named after his father. He’ll be playing against guys he bonded with all summer in the Melo Center. His team will be trying to stage a massive upset at the expense of his dad, a man he loves and respects, a man responsible for his competitive spirit.

“I haven’t really thought that much about playing the game,” Jimmy Boeheim said. “But I guess just seeing him on the sideline will be weird. I’ve never seen him on the sideline from anywhere except from the stands, where I’m watching the game. I’ve always been across the court watching him coach.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim stands at midcourt with son Jimmy as the Orange basketball team practices in preparation for the NCAA game against Indiana State Friday. To the right is player Mookie Jones. James Arthur Boeheim III bears his father’s name and the recognition it conjures. He tries not to think about his famous family’s legacy, but knows it’s lurking there, just under the surface, just enough to make him a curiosity.

He acknowledges “a lot of good things” come from being a Boeheim. He’s had access to experiences other kids only imagine and a front row seat to the biggest game in town. But Autry said he and Jimmy have grown to understand that “you just have to focus on being you.”

“I guess I don’t really want to be known as Jim Boeheim’s son. I want to be known as Jimmy Boeheim,” Jimmy said. “I’m very proud to be his son. But I like to accomplish my own things, apart from him. I don’t like to rely on him for things.

“I mean, he has influenced me in many ways. He’s definitely my role model the way he goes about life, how much of a hard worker he is, how much he helps the community, how much he cares about his players and the people close to him. He’s a very loyal guy, I think. All those aspects, I try to be like him in that way.”

It was his father, he said, who asked when he was little whether he wanted to play basketball. He never insisted, Jimmy Boeheim said, never pushed him to play. But he told Jimmy that if basketball was something he was serious about, he would help in any way he could, he would offer advice, ask for effort, try to pry the best from him.

Jimmy Boeheim said “it never crossed my mind” not to play. He loves the game,
adidas track tops Jimmy Boeheim is proud to be his father's son
the way it tests character, the way it binds teammates like brothers. It fuels his competitive fire, a compulsion he traces to his father.

At Cornell, Jimmy Boeheim said his new teammates treat him “like any other freshman.” But they are curious about his dad. And Jimmy has obliged that interest. He’s shared a few “funny stories,” he said. He can tell them about the silly games they’ve played, the contests they’ve concocted, the insatiable desire to win.

“We’ve competed since I was a little kid,” Jimmy said. “We used to play Candy Land. He would never let me win. We’d play again and again until I finally won and then I let him quit. We’d always play ping pong, pool. And just like stupid little games. My mom would just buy us some cheap little $5 toys and we’d compete over them for hours who can make the most of whatever the goal of the game was. Just stupid stuff like that. And then we’d trash talk each other. So yeah, he definitely instilled that competitive nature in me.”

Jim Boeheim with his sons Jimmy (center) and Buddy (right) at Mohawk Valley Community Center. Jimmy Boeheim said he’s thrilled for Buddy, who had dreamed of playing for Syracuse “since he was born.”

“That’s all he’s ever wanted and I think he’s worked extremely hard and deserves it 100 percent,” Jimmy said. “I could really not be happier for him. And I can’t wait to see him on the court. That’s where the competitiveness comes in.”

There were times when tyke basketball games would end with somebody crying or the whole scene devolving into “a wrestling match.” There were the days when the boys tried to get their dad to referee their one on one games and even Jim Boeheim had no stomach for that. After about a week, Jimmy said, his dad declared “I can’t do it any more.'” Afterward, it would just be Jimmy and Buddy locked into mortal combat on their home basketball court.

“There were times when Mom wouldn’t even let us play because she knew it was not going to end well,” Jimmy said.

“They’ve gone head to head,” Juli Boeheim said, “their whole lives.”

When Brian Earl and his Big Red staff were contemplating their 2017 recruiting class, they kept coming back to Jimmy Boeheim. Earl arrived at Cornell from Princeton, where he was an assistant coach who first noticed Jimmy as a skinny 16 year old who could potentially grow taller and stronger and add polish to his game.

Earl kept tabs on Boeheim after he got the Cornell head coaching job last season. He knew Jimmy was prepping at New Hampton. He had developed a relationship with Jim Boeheim by virtue of their close geographical proximity and their appearance at basketball events.

Earl said he typically “keeps our interest quiet” in a prospect until the staff is ready to move. He inquired about Jimmy’s interest in Cornell and when he received word that “interest would be high,” Earl invited the Boeheims on a recruiting trip. The visit, Earl said, was “very casual, very easy.”

Once Jimmy committed,
adidas track tops Jimmy Boeheim is proud to be his father's son
Earl said he gave little thought to the idea of coaching the son of a basketball legend.