The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team will have an added Boeheim on its roster this season. After Jim and Buddy made headlines last March as a father-son duo advancing to the Sweet 16, eldest son Jimmy transferred in from Cornell, utilizing his final year of college eligibility to play for dad.
The Ivy League cancelled its season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thus leaving Jimmy with one year of eligibility remaining. It felt inevitable that he would end up transferring to Syracuse to team up with Jim and little brother. In April, he made that inevitability a reality. “It’s priceless,” Buddy Boeheim told TNIAAM. “I get goosebumps thinking about it really.”
The fifth-year senior graduated magna cum laude with a degree from Cornell’s SC Johnson School of Business. His father suggests he’s a fast-learner despite how easy it must’ve been at Cornell academically.
“Jimmy’s picked up everything we’re doing quickly in spite of the fact he went to Cornell,” Jim Boeheim quipped.
A constant theme presented by Syracuse players and coaches is the idea of a family atmosphere inside the program. Perhaps there’s some good PR going on, but those close to the team, players past and present, concede to the sentiment. Maybe it has the potential to feel a bit campy — like a tawdry feel good story — but the Boeheim crew will attempt to epitomize that sentiment in a literal way this season.
With all three assistant coaches having played for Boeheim and basketball alumni who frequent back to Syracuse, this year feels like the culmination of the family-run program. Despite how predestined this may have seemed from the outside, Buddy Boeheim never could’ve envisioned this.
“Growing up as kids, Syracuse basketball was our lives. Going to games ever since I was 3, 4 years old. I can remember watching every game crying after games with them. Now we’re on the court together. I mean If you told me this as a kid growing up I would’ve been like, as a walk-on?” He said.
This will be the first time Buddy and Jimmy have played for their dad, but it won’t be the first time the two brothers have teamed up together as they both played on the same team in high school at Jamesville-DeWitt, the same high school that produced erstwhile Syracuse players Andy Rautins and Brandon Triche.
“We’ve both come a long ways for sure,” Jimmy says. “I was kind of like the elder statesman like the leader at J-D. He was just coming up. You could see he was going to be a good player but he wasn’t quite there yet.”
Now Jimmy joins as well after an impressive run at Cornell. In his final year, he led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He’s a bit older at 23 years of age and his father suggests his experience will help.
“Jimmy’s more mature. He’s physically stronger than he was at Cornell. He’s 10 or 15 lbs bigger. He’s an older guy. He had the year of prep school and the extra year in college. He’s fit in well,” Jim Boeheim said.
He’s a bit taller than Buddy at 6-foot-8 and stronger at 225 lbs. His skillset is different too. Although Jimmy can make shots from range, he’s crafty in the paint with his right hand and he can rebound too.
“To see how much he’s grown, I’m really proud of him and to share the court with him will be memories we’ll share for the rest of our lives,” Buddy says.
“It’s really cool,” Jimmy began. “Obviously as a player it’s awesome to play with him because he gets me a lot of assists. I can always try to find him and he’ll make a shot, draw attention. So as a player it’s awesome. It’s even cooler from the standpoint that we’re brothers playing. It’s been awesome to spend that extra time with him in the same way and bonding even more. It’s been great.”
Jimmy will play his final year and although Buddy could come back for another season if he wanted, he’s made it known that this will be his last season at SU.
Some have speculated that this could be Jim Boeheim’s last year coaching at Syracuse after his sons exhaust their eligibility. It’s an exit that would make sense. Although he’d never announce before a season, Boeheim remains adamant about coaching and shoots down any ideas of stepping down at the end of this season. Does he really strike as a ride-off-into-the-sunset type?
“I’ve never said that. I’ve never really thought about it,” he said.
The questions will keep coming with North Carolina’s Roy Williams already calling it a career and Mike Krzyzewski stepping away from Duke after this season. Like it or not, those are Boeheim’s ACC contemporaries and the intrigue grows. Nevermind the fact that Boeheim’s retirement has already been contemplated for over a decade.
“What do I have to do,” Boehiem queried. “Stay here 20 more years for you to stop asking me that question?”
It feels inevitable that Boehiem will coach at Syracuse for years to come. But sometimes we don’t always know when it’ll be our last time. In the interim, this season will be about family, both in theory and in practice. Jim has his sons directly involved in the family business now, and the Boeheims are hoping that Syracuse men’s basketball functions as one big family as well for 2021-22.