When the Syracuse powercouple comes to Atlanta for the Final Four this weekend, there’s one thing for sure. Anyone who meets them, will be impressed.
I first met Juli Boeheim at a children’s charity event in 1998. She was the guest speaker, I was the emcee. She was the star of the show, though in her humbleness, she’d never see herself in that light.
Thing is, you can’t help but notice Juli Boeheim. She fills a room.
I was dazzled by two things: her genuine southern charm, and her beauty. Oh, and a third! Her height. She’s quite tall. About 5’10-ish. At 4’11-ish, I’ve gotten pretty good at judging others height from my height. Now a foot may not sound like a lot, but it’s the difference between interviewing someone standing, and interviewing someone standing on a box.
In heels. In public. Ain’t pretty. Takes practice.
Juli was kind. Gracious. Helpful. Sincere. Gentle. Engaging. Sweet. Charming. Funny. Fun. And still is all those things. She’s not afraid of hard work, adventure, and is also not afraid to give where it counts the most – from her heart and her time. Family is her priority.
Ten years ago, Juli was a regular guest on my then-show, CNY Live where we’d chat about kids, life, Jim, and basketball. A week or two before SU went to the Final Four in New Orleans ‘03, I asked Juli if I could do a story about ‘a day in the life’ of Juli and Jim Boeheim. I wanted the public to see her as I saw her, and as I saw them. On the surface, the couple couldn’t appear to be more different.
Juli’s open. Jim’s private.
Juli’s radiant. Jim’s intense.
Juli’s adventurous. Jim’s good with routine.
Juli’s younger. Jim’s… not so much.
Juli’s calm. Jim’s restless.
Juli is sweet, kind, and heartfelt. It’s been reported, and not by me, Jim has a prickly edge.
Say what you want about Jim Boeheim, but anyone who spends his free time teaching kids how to play basketball, signing autographs, raising millions for cancer research, and who also is taking my favorite team to the Final Four – AGAIN - and in the city I’m living – is a pretty cool gent in my book.
Before Juli could say yes, she wanted to check with Jim first. I thought that was sweet. Big decisions take two yesses.
I was sure he’d say no.
After all, I’d watched many a press conference where Coach Boeheim didn’t exactly have an affinity for the media. Think about it. He’s grown one of the largest and most successful basketball programs in the country, coaches Olympians, while raising four children, and raising millions for charity – and after a long day of all that, especially on a game day that doesn’t go his way, he faces a sea of reporters wanting answers about things he doesn’t really want to talk about. But Jim Boeheim knows the PR game like nobody’s business. It’s that love-hate thing every star, every player, every coach has with the media. It’s great when it’s good and it stings when it’s bad. Coach Boeheim smartly answers the tough questions and scoffs at the dumb ones with his intense, competitive personality that makes him one of the most respected collegiate basketball coaches in the country. Besides, I think he’s pretty entertaining when he’s got a point to make. He makes it, moves on, waves a hand, and is done with it. Bug off, pal.
He also happens to be loved by one of the most beautiful, intelligent, classy women I know.
When I moved to Atlanta last May, Juli called to lend advice about leaving my comfort zone, my family and my friends. She once made a similar move noting, “….it’ll feel different at first, because nothing’s familiar. You really have to get up every day and embrace the experience and really live.” Great advice.
Back to my request, which I was pretty confident, Coach Boeheim would say ‘no.’
And the Coach probably did.
Jim Boeheim, the husband, said, ‘yes.’
With, I’m sure, a little nudging from Juli.
A few days later, Ham (photographer) and I walked into the Boeheims’ beautifully decorated southern charmed home for our sit-down interview. Juli smiled graciously, despite the phone ringing like a phone bank with requests for her free time. She’s asked to do hundreds of charity events a year.
Jim walked in the room with a pleasant hello, as the two sat down on the couch in the family room which was warmed by mahogany walls and family pictures. They sat close to each other, in a familiar way, as Juli brushed the shoulder of Jim’s shirt as he thanked her with an appreciative smile. As Ham situated the microphones, Juli and Jim teased each other in a language only a couple knows.
A good reporter knows that moments like these are privileged. Be respectful and be present.
And, I was.
Jim Boeheim grew up in Lyons, New York, a small town of 5,000 people. He started playing basketball when he was five. His family owned a funeral business, which Jim walked away from, to attend Syracuse University as a history major, where he was walk-on for the basketball team in 1962. By the time he was a senior, he was team captain. Then graduate assistant. Then assistant coach, and the rest is history, fast forwarding to this season with more than 900 career wins. Jim Boeheim, a small town boy, is now a big game Hall of Fame basketball legend.
Jim met Juli Greene at the Derby in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid-nineties. The synergy between Juli and Jim was undeniable. It wasn’t long before Juli moved to Syracuse where the couple married and now raise three children, James, and twins Jack and Jaime, while also embracing a close, loving relationship with Jim’s adopted daughter, Elizabeth, with his on-great-terms-with, former wife, Elaine.
Back to the interview couch with Juli and Jim a decade ago.
They laughed. They teased. They flirted. They’re one of those couples, when you’re around them – you feel love.
They talked about sports. About the value of winning and losing. The schedules. The travel. The kids. The charity work. The notoriety. Jim’s voracious reading. They talked about a room they were thinking of adding in the back. About a new picture frame he noticed. And how Juli made him a better-dressed man. Juli said she’d never change anything about Jim, that she loved him ‘as is.’ Well, except for the plaid jackets he once wore, which she felt “didn’t show Jim’s softer side.”
Jim revealed two things he didn’t like: a bad call and wearing a suit. They’re uncomfortable and stuffy.
I agree with him about the bad calls. Quite frankly, I’d prefer every call be in favor of SU. Oh c’moooonn, I know that’s not how it works. Just sayin.
I can see his point. It’s pretty clear, Coach Boeheim needs wiggle room for his flailing arms, aggressive leg clomping, and choleric coach contortion. A tailored fit that can handle ranting, raging and body twisting as the shot clock winds down while at the same time charging a bad call like Secretariat out of the gate. Which is why, Jim Boeheim wears sports coats with dress slacks. Period.
Jim Boeheim’s clothing designer of choice is Adrian Jules Custom Clothier based in Rochester, New York. The Clothier, founded by Italian master tailor and designer Adriano Roberti, opened shop in 1964, when Boeheim was about a junior in college. The Clothier employs dozens of tailors who dress an impressive list of who’s who. Check out www.adrianjules.com for the latest styles. These guys know their stuff and are really cool.
Adrian Jules wardrobe and tailor consultants, father and son team, Peter and Peter A. Roberti, say Jim wants style without feeling encumbered. Using some 30 measurements on his 6’4-ish frame, along with taking the Coach’s posture, slope and how he stands into account, the design team builds a tailored sport coat that concentrates the weight in the shoulders, so as not to compromise comfort or style. “The Coach likes a polished look with subtle detail,” Peter Roberti told me. “Jim doesn’t want to go outlandish. He likes tasteful, but different.”
The clothiers aren’t sure which tailored sport coat Coach Boeheim will don at the Georgia Dome, Saturday, but say they’ve been told he’ll wear one he already has, because he wants to ‘keep with what’s working so far.’ It could be the black herringbone with a Carrier Dome fan-filled-to-capacity themed lining, or the navy cashmere sport coat with vibrant orange lining, or his navy birdseye sport coat with SU logo-lining.
The last button hole on the sleeve will be orange.
The inner pocket will be complete with a monogrammed “Custom Styled for James A. Boeheim.”
“A” for Arthur.
His shirt and tie combo will, as protocol, be hand-selected and coordinated by Juli.
It’s a routine the Boeheim’s have mastered for nearly two decades. A routine they’ll continue, Saturday, as both shine on national TV, as – camera one – captures Coach Boeheim’s courtside rants – while camera two – snags a medium shot of a calm, cool and collected, Juli.
I once asked Juli what goes through her mind when Jim’s boiling mad from the bench.
“What are you thinking when you see Jim’s face contorted with stress,” I asked her, “when his veins are popping out of his head and neck?”
“All I’m thinking,” Juli quipped with a smile, “is breathe, Jim! Breathe!”