Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball’s connection to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons

Jim Boeheim (L) and Buddy Boeheim (R) speak at 2021 ACC Tipoff.

Item: Both Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim have begun their professional basketball careers playing for the Detroit Pistons in the NBA summer league currently underway in Las Vegas. Buddy Boeheim secured a two-way contract with the team which pays him for either playing in the NBA or a step below in the G-League, while Jimmy Boeheim signed a specific summer league contract, both brothers inking their deals following the conclusion of the June 23 NBA Draft. Ironically, their Hall of Fame coaching father also once had an opportunity to play for the Pistons – 55 years ago.

Jim Boeheim is all about loyalty when it comes to his nearly half century reign of running the Syracuse basketball program.

That’s why it’s no surprise the first opportunity his two sons have had to enjoy the taste of playing for pay are coming under the tutelage of Detroit front office executives Troy Weaver (general manager) and Rob Murphy (assistant general manager), both one-time assistant coaches under Boeheim with Weaver on the staff from 2000-2004, and Murphy then taking the chair from 2004-2011.

While the odds are long that Buddy Boeheim will have the opportunity to regularly nab one of the 15 roster spots each franchise is allowed once the regular season gets underway, even shuttling back and forth with the G-League Motor City Cruise means Buddy Boeheim might simply be an injury away from being called up with the prospect to suit up and see some memorable NBA game action.

Buddy has already scored his first professional basket, draining a corner 3-pointer late in the first quarter during this past Saturday’s 105-99 Pistons win over the Washington Wizards.

For Jimmy Boeheim, the road to playing professionally will likely be on the international stage, as he did not see action in the first two Pistons summer league games through July 11.

» Related: How do Boeheim and Swider fit with their new NBA teams?

In the different era of the 1960s, Jim Boeheim was tantalizingly close to making an NBA roster in his first year after graduating SU, and a year later contemplated an offer with the same Detroit Pistons.

After the 1966 Syracuse team fell to Duke in the East Regional finals, the Pistons selected Jim Boeheim’s backcourt mate Dave Bing as the number two overall selection, while Jim Boeheim signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls and made it to the final cut days before the season got underway.

Undeterred, Jim Boeheim returned to pursue his graduate degree at SU, was an unpaid assistant with the basketball team, earned $2000 coaching the now defunct golf program, and ventured out of town on weekends to play for the Eastern League’s Scranton-based team.

During Jim Boeheim’s rookie professional season, the Scranton coach was Paul Seymour who was a well-known name to basketball fans in Syracuse having both played and coached for the hometown NBA Nationals.

In 1967, Seymour headed to Detroit to become the Pistons head scout and cajoled Jim Boeheim into trying out for the team, insisting there was a roster spot available for a fifth guard, albeit with the prospect of little playing time as a shooting guard.

Instead, Jim Boeheim decided to forge forward with his goal of becoming a college basketball coach. He would become a fulltime assistant under Roy Danforth in 1972, replace Danforth as head coach in 1976, and is currently 103 unofficial victories behind the recently retired Mike Krzyzewski as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.

For more Syracuse coverage, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and listen to our podcast.

Avatar photo
About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.