Niagara head coach Greg Paulus makes his return to Syracuse

Syracuse vs Niagara
Dec 28, 2019: Syracuse Orange forwards Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe watch a shot versus Niagara Purple Eagles at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Greg Paulus, the first year coach at Niagara, has been to the Carrier Dome numerous times as a kid and in high school.

A Gatorade National High School Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American, Paulus led CBA to its first State Title in football in 2004. Paulus then played basketball for four years at Duke.

He returned to Syracuse as a graduate student in 2009, and was first-year head coach Doug Marrone’s starting quarterback and captain for the Orange. Paulus still holds the Orange single-season record for completion percentage (.677, 193-285).

After having a pregame meal with his team, family, friends, and former high school basketball coach and CBA Director of Athletics Buddy Wleklinski, Paulus stepped foot in the Dome for the first time in a decade, where his undermanned team put up a spirited fight against the longer, more athletic Orange in a 71-57 loss on Saturday evening.

“I think it was more when I walked into the arena,” Paulus said. “I saw so many family members and friends, people that I’ve known since I was in middle school and high school.”

» Related: Syracuse holds off pesky Niagara for eighth win

“I’ve come to the Dome so many times in elementary school, playing state championship games in football. The year being a quarterback here was unbelievably special and I’ll never forget it. I think all the memories came through as we saw more and more people. I love being from Syracuse. I’m so proud to be from this area because they’ve embraced me from day one.”

Paulus was named an assistant coach at Niagara last spring. He was elevated to head coach this fall after first-year head coach Patrick Beilein abruptly stepped down for personal reasons.

The Purple Eagles are 2-9 after Saturday’s loss. They are scrappy like their leader was as a player on the gridiron, and on the court. They never got blown out and even outscored the Orange after the poor start. The Purple Eagles were down by as many as 20 at one point.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Paulus said. “They are resilient and they work hard. They got better from this experience tonight.”

“We try to break it down segment-by-segment,” Paulus added. “Just win the segment. Then, win-or-lose, go on to the next segment. Just to shorten the game and make sure we can be in the moment. I thought we did a great job settling in after the first four or five minutes. We continued to chip away, and I liked the way we responded and played the last 35 minutes.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was impressed with what he saw in Paulus and the Purple Eagles.

“He’s doing a great coaching job with that team,” he said. “They play hard. They do a lot of good things. They’re short-handed. They’re small. I think he’s done a really good job with that team.”

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Judy Salamone
About Judy Salamone 27 Articles
For 18 years, Judy was Editor and Publisher of The Big Orange/The Juice print publication. Judy is currently a freelance editor and writer and has covered Syracuse University athletics since 1988. She is a graduate of Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, New York.