GREENSBORO — Maybe Jim Boeheim is ready to bury the hatchet.
Or maybe his sharp-worded feud with Greensboro was mostly an act to begin with.
Either way, the Hall of Fame basketball coach and bespectacled face of Syracuse University will be the guest speaker at the 2019 Fred Barakat Sports Dinner next spring.
Boeheim, 73, will speak at the dinner May 16, a Greensboro Sports Council fundraiser for the Matt Brown Learn-to-Swim Endowment held annually on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum.
Boeheim has famously — infamously? — criticized Greensboro a handful of times since the ACC annexed Syracuse from the old Big East.
There was the ill-informed jab at the city’s restaurant scene.
“I’m sure there’s a couple Denny’s down there,” he said in March 2014.
There was the lobbying for the ACC Tournament to abandon Greensboro in favor of larger, high-profile cities such as New York, Washington and even Atlanta.
“There’s no value to playing the Greensboro. None,” an exasperated Boeheim said from the dais after a first-round ACC Tournament loss in Brooklyn in 2017.
Within minutes, the City of Greensboro’s Twitter account shot back: “We kindly disagree. But I guess you can lose in the 1st round anywhere. At least it’s a quick ride home.” Local and national media picked up on the war of words. Heck, the Greensboro Grasshoppers even hosted a “Jim Boeheim No Value Night.”
But now, Boeheim has agreed to be the guest of honor at the Greensboro Sports Council’s premier fundraiser.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a kinder, gentler Jim Boeheim.
“I know Greensboro’s mad at me, and I’m trying to rectify that,” Boeheim told the David Glenn Show last month in Charlotte. “I like Greensboro. I just think the tournament should be in a big city, but that’s just me. I could be wrong.”
But even then, a little of the curmudgeon came out.
“Actually, I’d rather go to Greensboro,” Boeheim added, “because it’s easier to get to the game and back than in all the other bigger cities because you have to fight all the traffic. The game is the game: You play on the court, and that doesn’t change. I like the ACC, I like Greensboro, and I like restaurants in the south. Most of my recommendations on restaurants are in the south now, and I have a lot of them.”
Boeheim was a walk-on basketball player at Syracuse as a freshman in 1962, and he has been with the university ever since, moving from his role as assistant coach to head coach in 1976. He has led the Orange to five Final Fours and to a national championship in 2003.
Now he joins a list of speakers at the Barakat banquet that has included Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski; broadcasters Dick Vitale, Clark Kellogg and Jay Bilas; and members of the 1974 N.C. State championship team with David Thompson, Monte Towe, Tommy Burleson and assistant coach Eddie Biedenbach.
“This event continues to be a terrific event for the city of Greensboro as it celebrates the life of Fred Barakat, raises money for a worthy cause, and brings our community together,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Having Jim Boeheim as the featured speaker is fitting as the 2020 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament returns to the Greensboro Coliseum, a place where so much of its history took place.”
The Coliseum has hosted the ACC Tournament a record 26 times since the league was founded in 1954.
“I am really looking forward to it,” Boeheim said in the news release. “I knew Coach Barakat back when he and I were playing in the Eastern League and later as a fellow basketball coach in the Northeast. The proceeds for the dinner go to a worthy cause (the Greensboro Aquatic Center’s Learn-to-Swim program). It figures to be a great night of sharing college basketball stories."