Detroit — The Pistons and Jim Boeheim are connected in more ways than just the obvious.
Of course, Buddy Boeheim, a two-way guard for the Pistons and Motor City Cruise, is the youngest son of the longest-tenured coach in NCAA history and he played four seasons for his father at Syracuse from 2018-22.
Before his rapid rise through the NBA executive ranks, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver spent four seasons at Syracuse as an assistant under Boeheim.
There’s Pistons legend Dave Bing, who was a roommate and teammate of Boeheim at Syracuse during their undergraduate years in the 1960s.
Lastly, several other Detroit natives either played or coached alongside Boeheim, including Derrick Coleman, Todd Burgan and Pistons assistant general manager Rob Murphy, who is currently away from the team.
Even Syracuse legend Carmelo Anthony, who played under Boeheim for one season, believed he would be drafted to the Pistons with the second overall pick in 2003 but former general manager Joe Dumars selected Darko Milicic instead.
After 47 years at the helm of the Syracuse men’s basketball program, the university announced Wednesday that Boeheim would no longer coach the program and he would be succeeded by associate head coach Adrian Autry.
“I’m thrilled to be retired,” Boeheim said Friday during a press conference to introduce Autry. “I’ve felt better the last two days than I’ve felt in 47 years.”
Boeheim, 78, led Syracuse to 35 NCAA Tournament appearances, five Final Fours and he coached the program to its lone national championship in 2003. He’s second behind former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in Division I men’s coaching wins with 1,116, but the NCAA vacated 101 of those victories after an investigation into the program in 2014-15. He was also inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. It’s one of the most decorated resumes in all of coaching.
Buddy, who’s seeking to carve out his own basketball legacy beyond his father’s shadow, was in the middle of a shooting session at the Pistons’ Midtown practice facility Wednesday afternoon when a couple of assistant coaches told him that his father’s retirement was official.
The notion of retirement wasn’t a surprise to Buddy, since there was a conversation about the possibility in February during his brief visit to Syracuse for the All-Star break. Buddy checked his phone and there were several messages from his family’s group chat, confirming the news.
Just like that, the Jim Boeheim coaching era was complete.
“Man, it’s one of one, honestly,” Buddy Boeheim recently told The Detroit News. “You can’t replicate what he’s done. I don’t think anyone will ever really come close to that. Sixty years of just extreme dedication, year-in and year-out, and he always has his teams playing at a high level, especially in March.
“It couldn’t have been any better timing, but it was definitely pretty emotional thinking about my whole life and my childhood and all the memories I have growing up at Syracuse and being on the sidelines.”
Syracuse basketball is all Buddy has ever known. He grew up around the program alongside his older brother Jimmy, who also played for the Pistons during last year’s summer league. Attending NCAA Tournaments and Big East tournaments were the highlights of his childhood.
In the aftermath of Syracuse’s national championship, Buddy was there, soaking up the moment with Anthony. His No. 35 jersey at Syracuse was an ode to his dad, who wore the number during his playing career.
With no time to speak on the phone because of their rigorous schedules, Buddy sent his father a quick text message: “Congrats on an unbelievable career. I love you so much. Best coach ever, and more importantly, a better dad.”
During an emotional retirement speech on Friday, Jim Boeheim said coaching his sons at Syracuse in 2021-22 was one of his most “rewarding seasons” ever. The Orange didn’t have the success on the floor that Jim was accustomed to that year with a 16-17 record — his only losing season in 47 years. However, the memories were priceless.
“It was probably my favorite year,” Buddy Boeheim said. “Just being able to share something like that with my brother, living with him on campus, going home after games and talking about it with my dad and my mom, I just think there was a lot of pride there. It’s just unbelievable, some of the moments we shared.”
As for Weaver, who played an instrumental role in the 2003 title by recruiting Anthony to Syracuse, he appreciated his time working alongside Boeheim.
“Jim Boeheim is one of the giants in college basketball and his longevity, success and impact on Syracuse basketball is unmatched,” Weaver said in a statement provided to The News. “I cherished my time working with him and join so many others in celebrating his accomplishments.
“I’m excited for Jim as he moves forward to the next chapter of his life, knowing he’ll enjoy time with family and friends while continuing to impact the basketball community in positive ways.”
Boeheim’s journey at Syracuse started in 1962 when he was a walk-on with the freshman basketball team. He shared the backcourt with Bing, who became an All-American and went on to have a successful 12-year NBA career. The two led the Orange to a 22-6 record and the program’s second NCAA Tournament spot in 1976 as seniors and they’ve been close ever since.
The longtime friends spoke shortly after the news became official, a conversation full of reflection and praise for Boeheim’s longevity.
“I’m glad that he’s stepping down,” Bing told The News. “He’s had an amazing career at Syracuse, where we started together back in 1962, and he’s never left. Everything about him and Syracuse pretty much goes hand and hand, not just for the last 47 years in coaching, but even as a player.”
Bing said Boeheim’s coaching success never amazed him, particularly because he saw the potential first-hand in their dorm room.
“Even as a player back then, and my roommate, we’d sit up at night and he would design plays and talk about the different options,” Bing said. “I knew he would probably become a coach. It’s unbelievable that he’s lasted this long with the game changing the way it has. When I talked to him, I told him, ‘Look man, there’s nothing else for you to achieve. You had a great run. All the records that piled up there because of you, is something that people will look back on over the years. It’s time to enjoy your life.’“
Boeheim is expected to meet with Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack next week to discuss his role with the university going forward. He’s also planning to visit Detroit, one of the mini-Syracuse hubs he created.
“He’s going to come here and we’re going to have dinner together, talk about old times and talk about what he’s going to do going forward,” Bing said. “(Buddy) is here. We’ve got the Syracuse connection as it relates with (Weaver), so we’ve got a connection here that I think will get together and just enjoy talking about the things he’s achieved.”