Jim Boeheim was once a feared camp counselor at Camp Walden

Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim is one of the winningest coaches in the history of college basketball, but once upon a time he was also a feared camp counselor at the annual basketball camp held at Camp Walden in the Adirondacks in the ’60s and ’70s as Tim Layden recalled in a recent blog post for Sports Illustrated:

During after-hours shenanigans, no counselor was more feared than a balding (even then), bespectacled (even then) Syracuse assistant coach named Jim Boeheim, then just past his mid-20s. You did not want to get caught raiding the canteen or swimming in the lake after hours by coach Boeheim. The mention of his name would send terror-stricken youths running for cover. “Boeheim!” (The only other counselor who was similarly feared was Dolph Schayes’ brother, Herman, then a pot-bellied enforcer who had once played for the Washington Generals; Dolph will turn 85 years old in May; Herman died in 2008). Those caught by Boeheim were subjected to untold horrors — fingertip push-ups, leg-raises and worst of all, standing with arms extended to the side until lactic acid forced them to drop.

Yet getting caught by Boeheim was a rite of passage, too, fodder for tales not just over bug juice and family style mystery meat in the mess hall, but long afterward, back home at practice, too. Those who ran from Boeheim in the dark of the night would watch in wonder on subsequent afternoons as Boeheim lined up for “counselor’s games” with the likes of Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston, (Jumpin’) Johnny Green, Bob Lanier and Boeheim’s close friend and college teammate, Dave Bing. The skinny, balding guy with the nerd glasses strapped to his head was a player, a ball-out, end-to-end terror. “Boeheim?” we would say to each other, incredulous. Sure enough, Boeheim. Even then.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

Leave a Response