The Art of Sport with Jim Boeheim

July 21, 2014 – For the first “Art of Sport” feature (see blog entry below), I traveled to Syracuse, New York to interview legendary basketball coach Jim Boeheim. I sat down with the Hall of Fame coach in his office on the campus of Syracuse University, where he has led teams onto the court for 38 years.

In the interview, I asked Boeheim several questions about the heyday of the Big East Conference, which for years dominated college basketball.

“Before the Big East, we were one of 30 good programs in the Northeast and we never could get enough recognition,” Boeheim said. “Once the Big East was formed, all the recognition channeled into the four or five best programs in the conference. Right away, we went from being a good regional program to having a chance to be in the top 20 programs in the country every year. We were lucky that when it started, we had really good players. We were able to capitalize right away on all of the extra attention. We were able to recruit kids from California who didn’t even know where Syracuse was prior to the Big East and the inception of ESPN, which also took place in 1979. [Big East founder] Dave Gavitt was able to put together one of the best — if not the best — conferences in the country in about five years”

Boeheim also spoke about the atmosphere in the Madison Square Garden during the Big East Tournaments.

“It was electric,” he said. “The final game always took place on a Saturday night. It was a packed house, and the teams were playing in front of a national audience. There’s really no place like Madison Square Garden for college basketball.”

My last question for Boeheim, who is a longtime Yankees fan, was about the Captain. I asked the coach to share his opinion of how Derek Jeter has represented his team and his sport during his 20-career in pinstripes.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in sports who epitomizes what you should do on the field and how you should behave off the field better than Derek Jeter,” Boeheim said. “I understand that ability is important, but as a coach, I often talk about the importance of coming to practice with a positive attitude, being a leader, wanting to play every day, playing hurt and doing the little things that don’t show up in the box score. I’m in awe of the way Derek has done those things. There really hasn’t been an athlete who you can put at the same level as Derek in terms of consistency, effort and character over such a long period of time.”

The Q&A feature with Boeheim will be published in the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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