Jim Boeheim’s legacy immortalized in Lyons, New York

first_img Published on March 21, 2019 at 12:54 am Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img LYONS — In the downstairs bathroom of Jim Boeheim’s childhood home, the old tub looks like a casket. Inside are cleaning supplies for the funeral home. The bathroom’s original wallpaper hasn’t changed. The marble countertops are still there, the piping still exposed, just as it was when Boeheim occupied the space.Down the hallway, the living room — a fireplace, a table and a couch — have remained. In that living room during the 1960s, Boeheim’s mother and father listened to radio play-by-play of Syracuse road games. Up the wooden steps, Boeheim’s twin bed is still there. The wooden floors creak. His room includes a fireplace, cabinet and a window overlooking the backyard, where he shot hoops for hours, well after the sun went down.Boeheim, 74, hasn’t lived there since he relocated to Syracuse in the summer of 1962 to begin college. But recently, Boeheim thought about the source of pride in his life — the thing that keeps him going as the longest active coach in Division I hoops about to make his 34th NCAA Tournament. He thought about the 1950s, when he was just a skinny kid who loved basketball. He thought about growing up in Lyons, the place that molded Boeheim before anyone outside of the town knew his name.“I’m proud to be from Lyons, New York, town of 5,000 people,” Boeheim said last month. “Small little town. And got to Syracuse when I was 17. I’m grateful for what my parents did for me there.“I started here with nothing.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMatthew Gutierrez | Senior Staff WriterHis family’s long-standing business, the Boeheim Funeral Home, was started by his great-grandfather in 1854 on William Street. A portrait of Frederick W. Boeheim hangs on a wall in the house. Had Boeheim himself not rose from Syracuse walk-on to star guard to head coach, he said he probably would have spent his life in Lyons taking care of dead bodies.Aside from a white sign out front — “Boeheim-Pusateri Funeral Home” — there’s little indication that Boeheim grew up there. Fifteen years ago, Tom Pusateri knocked down the basketball hoop in the backyard, where Boeheim and his friends shot for hours after school and on Sundays. James Boeheim Sr. added lights around the hoop so his son could shoot at any time. One night, he was bouncing the basketball after the sun went down, which annoyed the neighbors. They notified a local police officer, who told them: “He’ll be a famous man one day. Let it go.”“They never complained again,” said John Lese, a former police officer in Lyons.At Lyons Elementary School, across the street from Boeheim’s home, Frank Quinn, Boeheim’s former classmate, recalled that Boeheim and a couple of friends didn’t follow the rules during nap time. Instead of resting on a rug, he led competitions of cops and robbers. Boeheim refused to lose. He hated it. Then, after school, when his team lost a basketball game, Boeheim took the ball inside.“He pouted about losing,” said Jim Blandino, a high school teammate of Boeheim. “He had the only ball, so when he lost, we couldn’t play anymore.”Blandino and several other of Boeheim’s high school teammates, including Tony Patanzo, know his early years best. His teammates still live in the Lyons area, and they meet nearly every weekday for breakfast at a cafe on Canal Street, two buildings over from Boeheim’s former home. They said Boeheim’s favorite team ever, after all these years, wasn’t at Syracuse. It was his Lyons High School team.Matthew Gutierrez | Senior Staff WriterInside the home, there’s no indication of Syracuse basketball or Boeheim. His father, who died of cancer in 1986, sold the house in 1975 to Pusateri for $90,000. Pusateri, 75, kept Boeheim in the name because the business had been associated with “Boeheim” for more than a century.Lately, most of the furniture was replaced. Pusateri has made modest updates to the house, including new windows, a new paint job and some bathroom updates. In the kitchen, where Boeheim said he grew up on spaghetti and meatballs, the cabinets are still the same old wood. Pusateri doesn’t recall much from buying the home, though he did remember Boeheim’s father being somber and stern. “You can see it a little in Jim,” he said.With his father, Boeheim enjoyed bass fishing and pheasant hunting. Sometimes, he fished alone at midnight. He inherited his athletic ability from his mother, Janet. Boeheim averaged 17 points per game and scored more than 1,000 in his career. When Boeheim pictures his boyhood home in Lyons, he remembers a mom and dad who disciplined him into the man he is today.Boeheim lives in Fayetteville now, but his heart is still in Lyons.“He’s still that same kid, that product of Lyons,” Juli, his wife of 21 years, said. “He has changed probably zero percent. He doesn’t have an ego. He’s blue-collar, hard-working, roll-up-your-sleeves, simple-minded, realistic kind of guy, which comes from Lyons.“That is home, and a big part of his heart and who he is.”Matthew Gutierrez | Senior Staff WriterBoeheim visits Lyons every few years to play golf or see old friends. He goes to his high school class reunion every five years. When he mentioned Lyons during his Hall of Fame speech in 2005, he shed a tear.Approaching Lyons on Route 31, a sign marks the town as, “Hometown of Jim Boeheim.” Next to the door in Boeheim’s current Fayetteville home, a black-and-white replica of the house hangs on the wall. A piece of the basketball court from his high school sits in his office. And he still owns an old hat that reads “Lyons” in script. In times of joy and in times of sorrow, he has subtle reminders of the place that made him.A few seasons ago, after a Syracuse game at Georgia Tech, Andrew Clary, the team security guard, was standing near the team bus, waiting for SU to walk out of the locker room to the bus. An old man with a cane called over to Clary and asked him to give Boeheim a letter he’d written.“What’s your name,” Clary asked.“No, that doesn’t matter,” the man said, according to Clary. “I used to play basketball with Coach Boeheim in Lyons, New York.”“Come on,” Clary said, incredulous. He knew Boeheim graduated from Lyons High School in 1962.“I swear,” the man replied. “Just give him that letter. I have stage IV cancer and I want him to read it.”Clary ran inside the arena, interrupted SU’s coaches meeting and told Boeheim about the man outside. Boeheim looked at it and walked to meet him. The two spoke for about 15 minutes, while the rest of the program filled onto the bus and waited.last_img

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