Boeheim suspension wasn't easy at home, wife says
Jim Boeheim's nine-game suspension is officially over, but the consequences linger for the longtime Syracuse coach and his family.
Like clockwork, the 71-year-old Boeheim met with his team at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center just after the stroke of midnight Tuesday, a couple hours after Clemson had beaten his Orange by 1 point in overtime, about a minute after his monthlong hiatus from the team officially ended.
''He had his coat on about 11:30, waiting,'' Boeheim's wife, Juli, said Thursday. ''He didn't want to be there too early. He met with the team and just kind of got things rolling again.''
''When he walked in the office yesterday, everybody breathed a sigh and said, `OK. We're back to normal,''' she said.
''It's been awful. The culmination of everything coming to reality and the recovery, it's not like, OK, everything's good now, let's pick up where we left off,'' Juli Boeheim said. ''It's not. It's still a process. It's a process for him up there, and it's a process for us here at home.''
In announcing Boeheim's suspension in March and sanctions against Syracuse University, the NCAA outlined a decade of rules violations that included impermissible benefits, academic misconduct, drug policy missteps and a failure by the school to control its athletics department. Syracuse was bracing for the sanctions and before the report came out strategically opted to recuse itself from postseason eligibility in 2015. The Orange lost four of its final five games and finished with an 18-13 record, so its chances at making the NCAA Tournament already were slim.
Boeheim eventually took responsibility as the guy in charge, but maintained throughout the investigation that he simply coached while others around him took care of everything else where rules were broken.
Boeheim appealed his original suspension of nine Atlantic Coast Conference games, calling it ''unduly harsh.'' The NCAA upheld the suspension in early December but let it start immediately, allowing him to miss six nonconference games and three ACC games, which are more difficult to win and more pivotal to the team's postseason positioning.
The Hall of Fame coach was not allowed contact with the team during his absence. Boeheim, who enrolled at Syracuse as a student in 1962, is in his 40th season as head coach at his alma mater. He had only missed three of the more than 1,300 games he coached before the suspension, because of surgery in 2001 to correct an enlarged prostate gland.
Both times, Juli Boeheim said, she couldn't watch the games with her husband because it was too emotional.
''I just don't think that I could get that close to him because of the pain. It's been heartbreaking. I can hardly look at him when he's watching the games because of that.''
Juli Boeheim said the suspension was a difficult transition that felt long.
''Now that we're coming out of it, I'm feeling all of it. I'm pretty exhausted,'' she said. ''Sometimes, I don't think we realize where we've been until we're out.''
For now, it's back to normal.
The Orange (10-6), which went 4-5 overall and 0-3 in the conference under interim coach Mike Hopkins, practiced Wednesday and Thursday and has one more scheduled session for Friday before Saturday night's matchup with No. 6 North Carolina, Boeheim's first game back. A crowd of over 26,000 is expected.
''If he was to pick a game to come back, he picked the right one,'' fifth-year senior Michael Gbinije said.