Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim has recruited all-star players such as Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman, Carmelo Anthony, and rookie Jonny Flynn. Jim has also captured more than five million dollars for causes he cares about. Here’s how a man who has scored a national title, coached the Olympic team to a gold medal, and is just one game away from his 800th career win uses basketball to help change the world.
1) Show people a good time. Jim and his wife, Juli, teamed up with Coaches vs. Cancer to raise millions for the American Cancer Society. “People are willing to fight cancer by going to fundraisers, but you have to show them a good time so they’ll come back every year,” says Jim. The couple’s annual gala, The Basket Ball, has set the bar for other coaches who want to organize black-tie events for the cause. “We’ve been lucky to find great locations willing to host us without a lot of overhead costs, like the Turning Stone Resort and Casino.”
2) Start small. “You just start helping because someone who needs it asks you, and then it branches out from there,” says Jim. He launched The Jim Boeheim Foundation (www.jimboeheim.com), along with Juli and his marketing manager Mike Bristol, to channel some of the money he raises back into the community. He’s partnered with Carmelo Anthony for the Courts 4 Kids program, which builds basketball courts in city parks so underprivileged children have a place to play. His Sneakers 4 Kids gives children free shoes that can’t afford them, and Jim’s Kids pairs high school students with internships at local companies to prep them for becoming professionals.
3) Get some support. “Without the help of people in our community, like with volunteers donating their time and businesses donating their services, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much at all,” says Jim. “Other coaches have tried to raise money in much bigger cities than Syracuse, but they weren’t able to because the support wasn’t there. We’ve raised millions for Coaches vs. Cancer because it’s a small city and we’re the focal point of the sports scene. If you can get support from the people around you, then you have an obligation to give back.”
4) Make it personal. Jim himself is a cancer survivor who led his team to beat Kansas in the national championships just 16 months after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now he takes the time to talk to guys also fighting the disease about what it’s like to overcome it. “We also bring kids with cancer to basketball practices all the time,” says Jim. “When you meet survivors-especially kids-it makes you want to do more.”
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