Jim Boeheim broke down several times Wednesday afternoon in fondly remembering his single most important recruit in the modern era (Carrier Dome forward) of Syracuse basketball, New York City scholastic legend Pearl Washington.
Washington’s family, through the university, announced that the all time great Orange player beloved by the central New York community long after his playing days ended, had died at age 52 Wednesday at a New York hospital, after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last summer.
“It’s been a tough day,” Boeheim said at a press conference at Manley Field House, fighting through tears and clearing his throat several times. “We’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of great players here, but there was only one guy like him.”
Boeheim said he last spoke with Washington during the surprising run to the NCAA Final Four, and that Pearl mentioned how appreciative he was of the team wearing his name on their warm-up shirts to show support of his medical fight against cancer.
“He appreciated the players wearing the Pearl shirts,” Boeheim said. “That was important to him.”
While his No. 31 jersey hangs from the Dome rafters, a more ubiquitous tribute in some form around that building or the Melo Center is next due for the great Pearl Washington.
(The Juice reporter Nick Salamone contributed to this story from Syracuse.)