I’m not the die-hard sports fan that I am now.
I grew up as a theater kid while also being a casual sports fan. I was more interested in baseball and the Yankees more than anything growing up. It wasn’t until I got accepted to Syracuse towards the end of 2013 that I started to follow and watch Syracuse-related sporting events.
But even then, I wasn’t still the invested, researched and analytical Syracuse Orange sports fan and writer that I am now. It took me a bit of time to learn about the history and the teams of Syracuse once I got to campus in 2014. I still remember asking my hallmates during my first football game who the quarterback of Syracuse was (spoiler: at the time it was Terrel Hunt and I got to see him play for a grand total of a quarter and a half).
I never really followed college sports all that closely. I didn’t have a reason to. As a first-generation American, I didn’t have a college or university that my parents attended in the US that we as a family identified closely with.
So where am I going with this?
There was one constant and one name I knew about Syracuse, even before I applied to the school. Even before I got accepted. Even before I saw a Syracuse sporting event of any type in person.
Whenever Syracuse was mentioned on Sportscenter, the name Jim Boeheim was always uttered. The few games I saw on TV as a teenager that featured Syracuse basketball featured Jim Boeheim as the figure and the leader of the team. His name was always linked with Syracuse University.
And that’s where I’m going with this.
The casual sports fan - hell even the non sports fans - knew who Jim Boeheim was. If you played a word association game and someone said Syracuse, one of the first answers would be Jim Boeheim. If you didn’t know anything about Syracuse, the first thing you would learn would be about Jim Boeheim. And that lesson would stick for as long as the Central New York University stayed in your mind.
That’s not going to go away so easily and quickly, even after Syracuse announced that Boeheim wouldn’t return to the program for a 48th season. We’ve seen it at Duke, where Mike Krzyzewski is still the leading figure of the program even in retirement. The situation is very much the same in Syracuse, where a long time assistant and a former player of the legendary coach now takes over the reins.
The legend will still prevail.
There’s been a lot said about Boeheim in the wake of the sudden announcement. Many have strayed towards the negative, especially given how the last two seasons of Syracuse basketball have fared. That is entirely justified, and it would be easy for me to hop on that bandwagon.
However, when I took a moment to reflect on how I would remember Jim Boeheim, it dawned on me what my journey was to join most of you as die-hard Syracuse fans or die-hard college sports fans. As a naïve kid who didn’t know much about the college sports scene, let alone the Syracuse sports scene, one of the first things I learned and one of the first things I knew was simple.
When you think of Syracuse, you think of Jim Boeheim.
That’s what fans will probably miss the most about the legendary coach. We may never see that type of association with any sports organization ever again. The longevity and success that he had with Syracuse is unlikely to be matched, let alone replicated. There’s a power to the name Boeheim. The most powerful thing a sports name or figure can become is to become so associated and intertwined with an organization that even non sports fans can recognize it.
And that’s what Jim Boeheim was.