Boeheim was hired by, competed against, and coached Wellsville High School graduates
By Andrew Harris, photo from Syracuse University
The recent retirement of legendary NCAA basketball coach Jim Boeheim has been big news.
After 47 years as the head coach of the Syracuse Orange, the coach has officially ended his career and caused an outpouring of gratitude and remembrances.
A trio of Wellsville graduates were part of Boeheim’s early days at Syracuse University, in fact he was hired by a Wellsville native.
Les Dye, arguably one of the most famous professional athletes to graduate from Wellsville High School. Before his career with Clarkson University and Syracuse, Dye was a professional football player with the Washington Redskins. Les wore many hats at SU, but made history with one decision. From the SU fan site, OrangeHoops.com:
“From 1959 to 1968 he worked in Syracuse University’s admissions office with different director responsibilities, and from 1969 to 1973 he was the university’s Dean of Admissions. In 1973, Dye became the Athletic Director at Syracuse, and would serve in that capacity until 1978. During his tenure in that capacity, the basketball team would reach the Final Four for the first time (1975), and he would hire a new basketball coach by the name of Jim Boeheim.
Dye was known as a square shooter as an administrator. He was honored as a Syracuse Letterwinner of Distinction in 1974. He passed away in August of 2000.”
Not only was Boeheim hired by Wellsville folks, but he competed against Wellsville in a Section 5 quarterfinals game. Rich Hetzel was on that Wellsville team and remember the game well:
“In the spring of 1962 to very fine high school basketball teams met in the quarterfinals of section 6 class a basketball tournament. Jim Boeheim played for Lyons, New York and came into the game undefeated and Wellsville had a record of 18-2. I believe to this day that neither team played well that night with the Lyons Lions coming out with a win. I would’ve loved a rematch.
I saw Jim Boeheim as a young player with a very accurate shot and a very competitive attitude on the basketball court. He was not faster or stronger or jumped higher than others, but he was a leader and love the game he played. He became a student of basketball and fell in love with his future in the game. I played against him two more times in college and although I have never met him or talked with him off the court, I’m positive that we remain in each others thoughts even those these events happened over 60 years ago.”
Last but certainly not least, the final connection is with the guy who technically founded the Wellsville Sun, my dad Kevin Harris. His connection to Boeheim wasn’t via basketball at all! Boeheim was also the golf coach at SU until being hired by Les Dye as the basketball coach in 1975.
Harris admits that his memory has faded on his time with Boeheim but his team member and lifelong buddy Jimmy Ganotis still keeps in touch with coach Boeheim.
The coach was a pretty good “stick” as Harris recalls, “He could have played 4th or 5th man on the team.”
According to Kevin, Boeheim had a very dry sense of humor, “a pretty funny guy.”
Is it possible that without these three Wellsville guys, Jim Boeheim may have never reached the immortal status as one of the most famous college coaches in history? Obviously Les Dye had the most impact on the career but consider:
What if Rich Hetzel had made that layup and Wellsville went on the win that game? What if Boeheim and Lyons High had been defeated and the loss caused Boeheim to abandon the sport of basketball? Consider if Harris and Ganotis had made a few more birdie putts and the Syracuse golf team went on to national fame? Perhaps Boeheim would have remained golf coach and passed up Les Dye’s offer to coach basketball?
Hypotheticals aside, Wellsville NY will be forever part of the legend of Jim Boeheim.