SIRACUSA, N.Y. – No one bothers Jim Boeheim on game days. Not his technical staff. Not his wife. Not his children.
Get ready by relaxing in your bedroom, watching cooking shows, reading, thinking, studying – just being alone. But once, about 15 years ago, his son Buddy entered his father's bedroom with a board game hidden under his arm.
"Do you want to play Candy Land?"
He felt he could not say no. He forced. "A game, that's all," he told him. Buddy won the first one. His father needed another chance. And another. They played long enough that Jim's wife, Juli, peered into the room to check in.
That competitiveness has haunted Boeheim all his life and has passed on to both of his sons. The young man, Buddy, this season has realized his lifelong dream of playing for Syracuse, where he is a freshman guard. His eldest son, Jimmy, is a sophomore in nearby Cornell. Boeheim, 74, is in his 43rd season as head man in Syracuse, the oldest coach in Division I. Soon, the convergence of Boeheim basketball that seems destined will develop. Soon they will move on to family business.
While Jim prepares to train a son against another Saturday night in Syracuse, he acknowledges that familiar faces will be in the whole camp. He didn't say anything to his family about the meaning of the game. "Not a word," his wife Juli said this week. Last year, all he did before his Orange sounded Cornell was to send Jimmy, then a freshman, a message the night before: "I love you, good luck".
"I know one thing," said Boeheim on Wednesday, after Orange (4-2) beat No. 16 Ohio State. "Both play better or I don't go home."
Boeheim has been included in the Syracuse culture since joining the basketball team as a freshman in 1962, then he remained as an assistant coach earning $ 10,000 in his first season. He earned $ 25,000 during his first year as a head coach, 1976, and now earns about $ 2 million per season. Living in central New York throughout his life, it may seem like he has everything he ever wanted: national title, five Final Four, 930 victories (101 have been released by the NCAA).
This weekend's game is another element for his personal legacy.
"Just when you think I did it all, so what's up?" Said Juli, his 21-year-old wife. "So we get this, something we can tell our grandchildren. It is such a blessing and a gift, even if it is stressful. This could be the icing on the cake. "
The Boeheim family meeting highlights the links between family and sport. A father may have never trained one child against another in college basketball history; Boeheim said he was not aware of another example. Two brothers met on the occasion. In the 2017 national championship, Kris Jenkins of Villanova played the adoptive brother, Nate Britt of North Carolina. In the 1992 NCAA tournament, Bobby Hurley of Duke played Dan Hurley of Seton Hall. In 1999, Duany Duany of Wisconsin played in Syracuse against his brother Kueth.
Buddy and Jimmy understand Saturday's rarity, although Jimmy said he didn't think of playing his brother and his father until Wednesday night. Buddy, meanwhile, has filed the date of the day when the game was announced in May.
"Going against him is something I never imagined," Buddy said. "On the pitch, I hope to act like I don't know him. It could be hard to do."
Like many younger siblings, Buddy spent a lot of time playing his older brother and losing. They were born after 18 months and Jimmy was always taller (he has 6 feet and 8; Buddy has 6-5). Right from the start, they joined basketball, especially in one-on-one battles inside a game room. At night, when dad was home from practice, they created a circle of Little Tikes. Dad chuckled as mom made presentations on a toy microphone. Turn off the lights and light a torch to imitate the NBA introductions. Subsequently, Buddy usually ended up crying. They are so competitive that they don't play one on one from the years of the arcade.
"They received all type A things from their father," said Jim's sister, Barbara, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. "Jim has all the type A things in the family."
The first sign that a family reunion in Boeheim would be possible came a year and a half ago when Mike Hopkins, a longtime assistant at Syracuse, left to become a coach in Washington. Boeheim's previously scheduled retirement date was later than the 2017-18 season, but after Hopkins left he signed an extension of the contract that will probably align his retirement date with the end of Buddy's career after the season 2021-22.
He joined even more when Jimmy went to Cornell, who played in Syracuse 123 times in over 100 seasons. So Buddy chose Syracuse after North Carolina coach Roy Williams told Jim: "He's fine. You'd better get it."
Being the son of a Hall of Famer entails enormous expectations. Yet the children of Boeheim claim that he was never hard on them: he offered only one or two tips after their games for boys. Buddy says his father doubles as his best friend. He is wearing the number 35 because his father did it.
Jim remembers the natural curiosity of his children as children. They walked around the gym, studied Syracuse's victories and learned to watch films in third grade. After the victories in Syracuse, Buddy shouted: "Dad! I love you!" Jimmy was late and developed his game later in high school. "I was small and not very good," said Jimmy.
Jim, the father, just wants both of his children to play Saturday in the game. Buddy is just hoping for a nice picture together. Jimmy is happy to have already got his nerves out of his system last November, when he emptied a three pointer in front of the Syracuse bench. He said he had to revise the game because everything after starting the formations became blurred.
"I'm more relaxed this year," said Jimmy on Thursday. "Last year, I was stressed, playing my father and all."
Due to the unlikelihood of this meeting, the sister of the Boeheim brothers, Jamie, had been afraid for weeks to check if she had a conflict on Saturday. Not her. She will sit near the middle of the field where her mother has always been sitting, a middle ground that places her equidistant from her two children.
Last year, Juli was wearing a Boeheim Vs. Boeheim ". On the back: "I can't lose". It will wear a similar version this year.
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