- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2016

CHICAGO — Jim Boeheim is well past parsing his opinions or press conference answers. Saturday afternoon inside a temporarily silent United Center, the coach of the Orange sat next to the five Syracuse starters and grumbled about Friday night’s interior defense. He would intersperse praise — noting how much Michael Gbinije has improved or the scrappiness of Trevor Cooney in the Sweet 16 win against Gonzaga — with the complaints.

To show he was an equal opportunity critic, Boeheim demeaned himself when recalling the end of his NBA career that never was.

After graduating from Syracuse in 1966, then-guard Boeheim was in camp with the Chicago Bulls. Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was on the team. As was Bob Boozer, a 6-foot-8 forward who was selected No. 1 overall in 1959.

“I remember rebounding for Bob Boozer,” Boeheim said. “He was about 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10, and he made 27 straight 17-foot jump shots, and I caught every one. Every one did not hit anything, and I said, ‘Hmm, these guys are pretty good here.’”

Boeheim scrapped his way through camp until he was done a favor by coach Red Kerr.

“I was a young player,” Boeheim said. “I mean, I was okay. I was down to the last cut on that team, which fortunately I got cut and I went back to Syracuse and had to figure out what to do, which turned out good.”

SEE ALSO: Virginia is one step from the Final Four because it opened with force

Virginia coach Tony Bennett has a more sour memory of the end of his NBA career and Chicago. Bennett was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in the second round in 1992. In the second game of the 1995 season, he played 25 minutes for the Hornets against the Bulls in the United Center. He would play only one more game before a foot injury ended his time in the world’s best league.

“I remember playing in Chicago Stadium, and one of the first times getting to play against Michael Jordan,” Bennett said. “A gentleman came up and he gave me this great picture of myself and Michael Jordan, it was an action shot, we were just in the frame, and he’s like, ‘You’re going to want this some day.’

“I remember looking at it thinking it was cool, but I left it in the locker, and we got on the bus and I remember we were pulling away and I was like, ‘I’ll get a bunch more of those, no big deal.’ And I always regret that, because I don’t have a great picture of Michael Jordan.”

By the end of Sunday night, after No.1 seed Virginia plays No. 10 Syracuse in the Elite Eight, one will have another bad Chicago memory.

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