When Syracuse University men’s basketball Coach Jim Boeheim enters the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Saturday night for the Final Four matchup against ACC rival North Carolina, a few things are certain: he expects to win, his wife, Juli, will be by his side, and thousands of loyal SU fans will be close to his heart. Literally.
First, a little about the couple, then Jim Boeheim’s jackets. Both are remarkably interesting.
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. Her genuine southern charm and natural beauty dazzle anyone who meets her. She’s kind, gracious, helpful, sincerely, gentle, engaging, sweet, funny and fun. 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.
In 2003, I had the honor of interviewing Juli and Jim in their Fayetteville home the week before the team brought home the Championship in New Orleans. I asked the couple to share ‘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. It’s quite a love story actually, though 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 calm. Jim’s a bit 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 – cuz we all know the #hatersgonnahate – but anyone who spends the little free time he has 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 – is a pretty bada** in my book.
Back to the interview, I wasn’t sure Jim would agree. After all, big decisions take two yesses.
Besides, Coach Boeheim doesn’t exactly have an affinity for the media, especially after a loss, when reporters want answers about things he doesn’t 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. So while I’m sure Coach Boeheim wanted to say no to me, Juli’s husband said yes.
Juli invited us into her beautifully decorated southern charmed home for our sit-down interview, greeting us with her gracious smile, despite the phone ringing like a phone bank with requests for her free time. Jim entered with a pleasant hello, as the two sat down on the couch in the family room 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 we set up, Juli and Jim teased each other in a language only a couple knows.
A good reporter knows that moments like these are privileged.
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 go 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 Lexington, 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 maintaining a close, loving relationship with Jim’s daughter, Elizabeth, with his on-great-terms- with, former wife, Elaine.
Back to the interview couch.
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 can see his point. Wiggle room is important for flailing arms, aggressive leg clomping, and choleric contortions. We’ve all been there.
Bad calls are out of his hands, but for just-the-right-fit, the Boeheim’s turn to Rochester tailors, Adrian Jules Custom Clothing. You can check out their coolness at http://www.adrianjules.com. The clothier, founded by Italian master tailor and designer Adriano Roberti, opened shop in 1964, when Boeheim was a junior in college. The clothier employs dozens of tailors who dress an impressive list of who’s who. Boeheim began his tailor treasures some 20 years ago with Peter Roberti Sr. The honor is now handed to Peter Roberti, Jr. who provided some insight on the Coach’s style.
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 team builds a tailored sport coat that concentrates the weight in the shoulders so as not to compromise comfort or style. “We add fabric to the center and side seams in the back of the garment to give him more movement in the coat,” Peter Roberti said. “Adding more fabric gives him more movement and ease in the shoulder blades.”
Juli has chosen two of the Coach’s faves to bring to Houston:
Neapolitan Blue Sport Coat – Coach Boeheim wore this tailor-made jacket in the First Rounds of the NCAA playoffs in St. Louis, and according to Juli, will likely wear this jacket against North Carolina. The cashmere wool jacket is custom silk-lined, imprinted with a photo from the Feb. 2010 record-breaking crowd of 34,616 fans at the Carrier Dome where SU beat Villanova.
Black Herringbone Sport Coat – Coach B wore this tailor-made cashmere jacket at the Elite 8 game in Chicago to beat Virginia, which is also custom silk-lined with a photo from another Syracuse game, but the clothier didn’t reveal which. This is the jacket of champions. My words, no one else’s. ☺
“The linings of his jackets are personal to him,” Peter Roberti Jr. said. “They represent different moments in his career.”
Roberti says the process is pretty simple. “I was in Coach Boeheim’s office one day when he pointed to a picture he wanted in a lining.” Roberti said. “So I took out my cell phone, took a picture of it and made that lining.”
Roberti says he’s honored his family has been able to provide Coach Boeheim and Juli with high quality attire that the Boeheim’s appreciate for the majority of 20 years, take away a few years here and there. “He’s Syracuse. He’s the guy. Syracuse is important and he wears it close to him.”
Here’s few other facts about Jim Boeheim’s jackets:
The last button hole on the sleeve will be orange.
The inner pocket will be monogrammed “Custom Styled for James A. Boeheim.”
The “A” is for Arthur.
His attire is chosen and coordinated by Juli.
“She picks out everything,” Roberti clarified. “I can’t take credit for that. We just make the clothes, she puts everything together.”
Like they say…behind every man….
I asked Juli a few years ago what goes through her mind when Jim’s boiling mad from the bench.
“Juli, what are you thinking when you see Jim’s face contorted with stress,” I asked, “when his veins are popping out of his head and neck?”
“All I’m thinking,” Juli quipped with a smile, “is breathe, Jim! Breathe!”