With Boeheim from the Beginning

Roosevelt Bouie has been a part of every one of Boeheim's victories en route to the newest milestone of 900, on the court and as an alum. See Boeheim through Bouie's memories inside.

Syracuse Orange men's basketball alum Roosevelt Bouie entered into his career as a player for the Orange the same season Jim Boeheim began his career as the head coach of Syracuse's squad, 1976-77.

Now, 36 seasons later, Bouie has seen Boeheim gain his 900th career victory.

"It's another win in a very successful, successful career," said Bouie. "For me, it's kind of amazing seeing that, if I'm not mistaken, I was there when he got his first win as a head coach."

Bouie was there, on November 26, 1976, in Springfield, Massachusetts, being coached by Boeheim in the first victory for both himself and Boeheim, with a 75-48 defeat of the Harvard Crimson.

When asked what Boeheim said to him and his teammates, Bouie offered,"The thing that I remember that he always instilled in us [is] that if we played the way that we're capable of playing that no one would beat us. We would have to beat ourselves…He was selling it and we were buying it, and we did it and it actually happened, so it made things really easy."

From 1976 through 1980, Boeheim, Bouie, and the rest of the Orange attained 100 wins. Within his first four seasons at the helm of Syracuse men's basketball, Boeheim went from one win to the century mark.

But, despite all the success, Bouie remembers Boeheim for what he said after a loss. "The one thing that I remember the most about my college career was the first loss," Bouie remarked. "We lost in the Maryland Invitational Tournament. I played for Kendall [high school]. We were 65-1. The last time that I'd lost was three years earlier. So we lost the game and I walked up to coach Boeheim and apologized. I said, ‘Gee coach I'm sorry.' And he was like, ‘What are you talking about?' I was like, ‘We lost the game.' He's like, ‘No, no, no. We're building toward something more important.' I remember that."

"And then the 100th win, the thing that I was thinking about more than the 100th win, I was thinking that I wasn't gonna be able to play with my teammates any longer," Bouie added. "So it was great to have that 100th win, but…also, I knew that very soon I wouldn't be playing with these guys again. So, it was kind of sad for me."

As far as what Boeheim was like when he started his position as head coach, Bouie shared, "Well, actually, it was pretty incredible because I knew [he] was a really good coach because I went to the SU basketball camps, so I knew he was very knowledgeable about the sport."

"When I came up to the basketball camps, I saw a demeanor that I thought that I could live with, that I could play for," Bouie expressed. "I couldn't play for a Bobby Knight because it wasn't something that I was used to. I kind of figured to be on the safe side, you should find a coach who has more or less the same demeanor as your father, because that way if he ever had to yell at you, you were never tempted to respond back. You would accept it and then go out and try to improve. So it was very easy for me."

"I knew that it'd be very easy for me to play for him because he always said exactly what he wanted out of me which made it very easy," Bouie elaborated. "I just went back and did it…You couldn't have asked for a better coach. He never yelled. We never gave him anything to yell for, so I have to say that it was a great time."

Bouie continued to speak on how Boeheim taught him and his fellow Syracuse teammates. "He always taught us without yelling," said Bouie. "I can't say for the other guys, but for us, he would explain things to us how he wanted it, and then we'd go out and try to do it as best we could, so it was [a] pretty simple thing because when he told us something, you knew that what he was telling you was for your benefit…it'd be like somebody telling you how to walk across the mine field and then you tell them to, ‘Shut up, I got it.' You know, it just didn't make any sense to me. So, he told us what to do, we listened, and it makes life a lot easier when you listened to what your coach says."

According to Bouie, Boeheim's demeanor has withstood the tests of time. "For me, he's still the same…except for we go fishing from time to time and I think he'll tell you that he's a better fisherman, and out of respect for his 900th win, I'm gonna agree with him," Bouie joked. "But when we talk about watching basketball or talking about basketball, I remember one of the things he said before was when he recruited players my class actually was all a bunch of players that won a lot of games, wanted to win, and would do whatever it took to win. So when he put us all together, it made no difference who did anything just as long as we won at the end of the day, and so that made it very, very easy to play with the class that he recruited. And he was great at putting guys together that have the same goals and, therefore, it was very easy to continue what he's done for so many years."

It was Boeheim who helped Bouie to keep going early on in his collegiate career. "There was at one point in my career I was…nobody probably knew it…I kept things to myself," Bouie shared. "I was feeling kinda complicated. I just came from Kendall High School and I wanted to do well, but I was feeling a lot of pressure being a young kid on this big campus. And I remember coach [Boeheim] came in after one practice and we were working really hard and we're sitting down there. He said, ‘Listen, when you come to practice, if you work so hard that after practice it takes you 15 minutes before you can bend over to reach your shoes,' he said, ‘I can teach you how to play basketball, but I can't teach you how to play hard. If you play hard, I'll teach you how to play basketball. And for me, it was like lifting a weight off my shoulders because I always knew that I only knew how to play basketball one way. That was as hard as I possibly could, and give everything that I had. For me, that was a key moment in my career and in my life because I felt that it made a lot of sense to me. If I gave everything, I had to achieve something. Then at the end of the day, I couldn't be sorry about anything that happened because I gave everything that I had."

Another memory Bouie has of Boeheim is of his loyalty to and care for his players. "I remember, distinctively, there was one point during our season. We lost a game…it was kinda silly. We should've won," Bouie stated. Bouie then recalled that blame was looking to point its figure at someone. "Well what do you think of this particular player's play today? If he'd of played better, you might of won the game," was said to have been uttered toward Boeheim, according to Bouie. "And he said, ‘No, he did exactly what I told him to do. It was my mistake, and we'll get it right next time,'" Bouie remarked, referring to Boeheim. "So he would put himself between any confrontation for a player, and when you see that, when a player sees that, he knows that your coach will take that bullet for you. So you just asked him, ‘You want me to knock this wall down?' You don't say, ‘Can it be knocked down?' You ask, ‘Well how many times.' He makes you wanna do whatever you can because you know that good, bad, or indifferent, he's a player's coach. He looks out for the players. So I once I saw him do that I was like wow…it builds a kind of pride in your play when you know that at no point will anyone be able to pick you out or point you out and say bad things about you because he stepped up…and said, ‘Hey, it was my fault.'"

Boeheim taught the Orange to learn how to hold themselves accountable for their actions and inactions as well. "I remember one of the first things that he said when we came right out of our first practice," Bouie recalled. "He walked out there and he said that, ‘You guys have to learn how to say, when something happens, you gotta learn how to put your hand up and say my fault, no matter what it is because if you both think it's your fault whatever problem happened, it'll never be an argument and both of you will work try twice as hard not to do it again.' And I always remembered that. So there was never a cross word said [when we] were out there playing. If something happened, if a defensive man got to the basket and I didn't help, I would say, ‘Hey, my fault.' And then the other guy would say, ‘It was my fault for losing ‘em.' And so, okay, now we'll just work harder not to let it happen again. So you're always working in the same direction."

Bouie dialed up a past game for yet another memorable Boeheim moment. "Also he said during a timeout, ‘If I call a timeout, I've got one minute to explain to the whole team what to do. Don't come to the bench telling me why you did what you did.' He said, ‘Basically, I don't care, because if it worked, I wouldn't a had to call a timeout." Bouie chuckled. "So he kinda cut right to the chase."

The Syracuse big man went on to say, "And those are things that made a lot of sense to me in my life. When you screw [up say], ‘Listen, it was my fault. I'll work harder to make it better.' There are things that were repeated for me from my upbringing. My mother, father, my grandmother. They're all things that we're taught growing up as kids and he just kinda put it into context in the game of basketball. Because I feel basketball, the things you learn in basketball, you can also carry over into life that will help you out there, also."

Speaking on whether or not he is surprised that Boeheim has been on the Syracuse sidelines for almost 40 years, Bouie said, "I look back in my playing days and I thought about it. If I coulda stayed here and kept on playing, I wouldn't a left. But I had to leave because you only get to play four years. So if you're doing something that you love in a place that you love and that's been good to [you], it absolutely makes sense that he stayed here."

"I always look at it very simply this way: there are very few people that I've ever seen that when they go into their office where they work, that they're just as at ease as if they were at home," Bouie expressed. "I've seen coaches at gamedays that are, when they're doing anything with their team, they're wired. They're not relaxed. They're tense. Every time I've seen coach, he seems most at ease out of any of the coaches that I've ever had. Whether he's scouting, whether he's watching basketball, whether he's talking about basketball, whether he's explaining something to you about basketball, he's pretty much at ease doing that. So that old saying ‘if it's not broke, don't fix it'. If you're having a great time doing it, why look to do anything else? Until somebody comes in there and grabs you by the ankle and throws you out."

Bouie shared what he wants to say Boeheim in celebration of this achievement. "For me, personally, it would be the same thing that I said to him when I graduated," Bouie disclosed. "I thanked him for recruiting me and letting me have the opportunity to play at Syracuse University. Well now that I've played and I've continued my career and I've retired, and it's still the same thing. I'm very, very pleased that he took the time to come out to Kendall, NY, and talk to me and allow me to come and play for Syracuse University and be a part of this big family."

"Syracuse basketball is not a hobby," Bouie exclaimed. "You're not a fan. It becomes a part of your life. And it remains that way for me."

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