A Piece of Boeheim's History

Orange basketball alum Lazarus Sims reflects on his time spent with Jim Boeheim, giving an inside look that few can provide. He shares it with CuseNation.com inside.

Syracuse Orange men's basketball alum Lazarus Sims played under hall-of-fame head coach Jim Boeheim from 1992 through 1996.

He had respect for Boeheim from before he took the court as one of his players. "Probably one of the biggest impresses on me was I was playing in one of my high school [games]. I think maybe my junior year of going for playoffs in high school," Sims stated. "And I look up in the stands and he's in [the] stands with Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens and a couple other SU Orangemen that were there that year, watching our high school game. So, it was impressive just to see a hall-of-fame coach in your gym, being in a small school, like in Syracuse." The Syracuse guard hailed from Henniger High School right in the city of Syracuse, not far from the university.

Boeheim, according to Sims, was making an exception at the time in bringing him onto the Orange. "He did a little recruiting with me being from home, but just he expressed his interests and that he didn't recruit too many kids from Syracuse being that, you know, being a home kid, the pressure of wanting them to play and having to play ‘em," Sims recalled. "So, he thought that I would be one of the kids, special kids, that could play there for him."

In Sims' final season with the Orange, they rose through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the championship match. "It was great ‘cause even going into that year, the situation with myself. My father had passed away, so I was in debate on even returning to school just with the loss of him, and with playing minutes from the previous year, not playing as much as I wanted to," Sims admitted. "We had Michael Lloyd as a transfer who didn't return for his senior year my senior year, so ended up going that year."

"Probably, one of the most intimate moments with him was me coming back and him talking to me about the situation with my father passing and getting prepared for the season and being the guy for the team," Sims continued. "So it was a good year as far as it matured during the season. My confidence from him grew and he let me kinda run the team as I saw fit and run plays. And he was confident with me that I would run plays that would help us, that would have us win, and put us in the right situation. So he kinda gave me a lot of freedom my senior year."

Syracuse advanced throughout the 1996 NCAA Tournament until losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in the nation's title game. Along the way, the chant, "'Cuse is in the house, oh my God," became a calling card for the Orange. The team would rock back and forth, nodding and bouncing as they said the chant.

Boeheim was no stranger to his players' creation. "He bounced up and down a little bit when we were in the playoffs," Sims remarked. "He got involved ‘cause he couldn't help [it]. It was such a great season for us [as] far as being doubted every round and proving everybody wrong, so he couldn't help but jump in and feel the vibe that was sweeping through the university."

Asked if the longtime head coach was a good dancer, Sims replied, "Not too much dancing. We bounced around and jumped around and had a good time…He was still a little bit athletic, so he jumped a little bit."

When talking about how playing under Boeheim affected his life, Sims stated, "It shaped me and helped me be the person I am. You can't go through life without dealing with adversity and without good people on your side, and I think the lessons I learned being at Syracuse and playing for coach Boeheim, and also working for coach Boeheim, will help me be a better coach and also a better person."

The Syracuse alum is currently in his first season as an assistant coach for the NCAA Division I men's basketball team at Binghamton University.

When Sims thinks of 900 wins for Boeheim, he thinks of, "His longevity. His resolve. His will to win. His will to connect with these different generations of kids, which is, right now, it's a hard generation to connect with ‘cause everyone thinks they're pros and everyone tells ‘em they're pros. So when you get a kid at his level, if you can hone these kids in and get ‘em to play a team sport, as a teammate, and to buy into a situation, such as the Orangemen with a 2-3 zone. Everyone wants to play man. If you can get these kids who are supposed to be pros or who are told they're pros to buy into a system to say, ‘Look, the team is first,' it just shows his resolve and his toughness and his character."

Sims helped Boeheim achieve win number 400 while playing for the Orange. In response to if Boeheim's "the team is all that matters" was the same back when Boeheim attained his 400th, Sims said, "Yeah. He wants to win and he's getting ready for the next game…He's a competitor, so he wants to win every game he's at and he wants to win for his team. He brings those guys in. He's the leader, so he's trying to put them in the best situation possible. So I don't think he [is] looking at it as his own accomplishment [as] far as the 15 to 20 guys that are there with him every day in practice and in the office."

Syracuse's most familiar face of their basketball history has succeeded in making his players feel welcome, according to Sims. "As far as I've known and me personally, he's always been there for his players," Sims expressed. "And he does a great job when communicating when those guys come back or those guys reach out. He's there and he has an open door. So I think it just helped me be and taught me responsibility and be accountable and be a standup person."

Orange alum like Sims have formed bonds over time not just with their teammates, but will players from different eras. "Well you gotta contribute some point of it to him," said Sims of Boeheim. "He brought us in and he brought in character guys, so yeah you can attribute most of it to him ‘cause he's the one, the maestro to bring everybody in in the beginning and develop a family type of environment…He kept us together. A lot of us lived together and we partied together and we practiced together and we ate together. So, he was the maestro in all that."

With an atmosphere that not only helps people when they are playing for Boeheim but also makes them come back, it is apparent why Boeheim is still on the sidelines, but for how much longer? "He's timeless," said Sims. "I would just say he's timeless, kinda like coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. Bobby Knight decided to go out at his own time. I think he could probably still be out there coaching and these three guys could be just tearing up the college field, I think. You can't put a time on ‘em. He wins. He's one of the only few coaches that can give you 20-plus wins a year consistently. So I guess with the passion that he has for the game, I guess when his passion and love dies down from the level that it is, he'll probably say it's time."

Put simply, Sims wants to say, "Congratulations on your 900th win, coach Boeheim."


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