Boeheim, Few have found happiness staying put
Boeheim grew up about an hour from Syracuse, was a walk-on player there in 1962 — you know, about the time "Big Girls Don't Cry" was popular — and he never left, save for four years of minor-league pro basketball in the late '60s.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Gonzaga vs. Syracuse, 9:10 a.m., Ch. 7
BUFFALO, N.Y. — In a hallway here at HSBC Arena, Jim Boeheim and Mark Few stood about 10 yards apart, and Boeheim used a golf term to describe his coaching counterpart in today's second-round NCAA basketball game.
"He's a 'scratch' fisherman," Boeheim said. "I'm about a 22."
And on it went, digs and barbs traded and absorbed.
They're used to this. Boeheim, the Syracuse coach, befriended Gonzaga's Few years ago and they became good friends. They and their wives have spent time together in places like San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Sunriver, Ore., on Nike-sponsored coaches trips.
Boeheim and Few are 1-2 in money raised in the Coaches Versus Cancer campaign, Boeheim at about the $5 million mark and Few at $4 million.
Then there's this other bizarre kinship.
"I've never been a believer that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence," Boeheim said.
Apparently not. Boeheim grew up about an hour from Syracuse, was a walk-on player there in 1962 — you know, about the time "Big Girls Don't Cry" was popular — and he never left, save for four years of minor-league pro basketball in the late '60s.
Boeheim has been ridiculously stable in a profession almost defined by upheaval. He became a grad assistant at Syracuse in 1969 (Chappaquiddick, Woodstock, moon-landing), got a full-time aide's gig in 1972 (Watergate) and became Syracuse head coach in 1976 (Bicentennial).
When everything around us is swirling, especially the coaching dodge, you know Boeheim, 65, will be at Syracuse, where he's always been.
It's hard to know which is more unlikely: A guy not leaping at the next good offer, or being able to stay one step ahead of the posse.
As for the former, Boeheim hasn't exactly been a self-promoter; he says he has had one other interview in his 34 years as a head coach. Ohio State wanted to talk to him in 1986, and "I wouldn't even leave Syracuse to do it. I only did it because somebody said, 'We're coming in to see you.' "
They did, and that was that.
"I've seen too many cases that somebody has moved," Boeheim says, "and it just hasn't been a good situation. I really don't like change at all."
Over the years, they've dinged Boeheim for a lot of things — the droll demeanor, a perceived tendency to whine, associations with a street agent, Rob Johnson — and for a long time, what happened on the floor. Syracuse won a lot of games, only twice in his regime failing to win 20, but it didn't win the big ones.
It lost a cliffhanger in the 1987 final on Keith Smart's late shot for Indiana, after which Syracuse wasted seconds before it got a last shot. In a 1995 regional, Lawrence Moten called a timeout the 'Cuse didn't have, and it lost. He finally broke through in 2003 with Carmelo Anthony, winning it all.
I asked Boeheim Saturday if he has always felt appreciated. There are coaches who believe you have to keep on the move, simply because people get tired of you.
"There's always the great group of educated lawyers and business guys and doctors — I don't really pay much attention to those people," Boeheim said. "They know as much about basketball as I know about what they do, which is absolutely nothing."
Bernie Fine has been Boeheim's assistant coach for 34 years. Referring to Boeheim's longevity, Fine said, "That's his comfort zone. He's friendly with all the people in town, the university takes care of him. He has a great life."
Oh yes, the life. That's what this is all about, and that's where Few comes in. He has gone to school on Boeheim, picked his brain, and so far, has resisted a bunch of offers to leave Gonzaga. He might move on, but there are lots of cautionary tales out there.
"Everybody's always jockeying around to leave," Few said. "He's created a legacy that will be there forever at Syracuse."
Pretty cool, Few said.
He picked the right expression, one that's been around about as long as Boeheim at Syracuse.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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