Jim Boeheim will coach Duke game following fatal highway accident
Boeheim will coach Duke game three days after fatal accident
After days of investigation and speculation surrounding the fatal highway accident involving Jim Boeheim on Wednesday night, Syracuse Athletics has announced that he will be allowed to coach this Saturday when Syracuse squares off against No. 1 Duke.
Syracuse University Athletic Director John Wildhack released a statement Friday afternoon saying Boeheim will coach Saturday’s game despite the tragic death that occurred on Wednesday. According to Wildhack, the players gain strength from Coach Boeheim, just as he gains strength from them. Boeheim will resume his duties as coach later today in preparation for tomorrow.
Here is the full statement from Wildhack:
“The Jimenez family has suffered a tremendous loss. Our community is shaken. The Boeheim family is heartbroken over what happened, as we all are. This is a very difficult time. I know that Coach Boeheim’s players gain strength from him, just as he gains strength from his players. Our entire community gains strength from each other. With this in mind, and after thoughtful consideration, I have respectfully decided that Coach Boeheim will resume his coaching duties later today and will coach in tomorrow night’s game against Duke. We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family as they continue to mourn this tragic loss.”
Among those who opposed the decision to allow Boeheim to coach was Jimenez’s stepson who spoke with WTVH.
Brian Hernandez, 19, step son of Jorge Jimenez who was killed this week in the crash involving Jim Boeheim says he’s unhappy the SU-Duke game is happening in the first place and his family is not among those who thinks Boeheim should return to coach it. pic.twitter.com/JH0AYVomsa
— Michael Benny (@MichaelBenny) February 22, 2019
At a press conference late Thursday, Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner said Boeheim has been cooperating with investigators looking into the death of 51-year-old Jorge Jimenez of Syracuse in the eastbound highway near Thompson Road where the Syracuse man’s car had slid into a guardrail. After hours of statements and a flood of local and national reactions, authorities said Wednesday’s I-690 wreck that resulted in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim hitting and killing a man was a tragic accident.
Officers responding to 911 calls about a two-car wreck around 11:22 p.m. Wednesday found Jimenez had been struck by Boeheim’s vehicle. Prior to being hit, Jimenez had exited his car following an accident in which it had struck the guardrail for unknown reasons and “proceeded to walk on the highway within close proximity to that vehicle,” according to Syracuse Police.
Jimenez was transported to Upstate University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Buckner said it appears that Jimenez’s car hit a patch of ice, causing it to hit the guardrail. He also said a second passenger in that car sustained minor injuries from being hit by a car mirror.
Boeheim, 74 of Fayetteville, then struck the man who was “standing on the side of the road.” Both drivers remained on the scene. Boeheim and the driver of the other vehicle were both submitted to field sobriety and alco-sensor tests. Neither driver showed signs of impairment. Currently, the investigation cannot determine if speed or weather conditions, which were supposed to include “light freezing rain,” according to several weather reports, played a role. No tickets were issued at the time of the incident.
Syracuse police spokesman George Hack said there were other passengers in Jimenez’s car with no reported injuries. Hack said the department doesn’t currently have plans to charge anyone.
Syracuse.com reported that family and friends said Boeheim does not drink alcohol.
“I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as a result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a statement issued this afternoon. “Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”
The incident happened hours after Boeheim had coached the Orange to a 69-49 win over No. 18 Louisville and days before SU faces Duke in a highly anticipated sold-out game at the Carrier Dome.
Along with a flood of social media comments, SU students weighed in on what many are calling a “tragic accident.”
Communications design sophomore Courtnie Lewis believes as long as Boeheim is in the mental state to coach, he should be there when the team faces Duke.
“He should dedicate the game to the (victim),” Lewis said.
Freshman Rose Gould echoed Lewis’ sentiments: “At first I thought it was fake, and after reading the article I was shocked. I honestly felt bad for him, especially in those driving conditions.”
“I think he should be able to coach but I don’t know if he will be in the right mental state,” Gould said.
Senior Audra Linsner, former president of the student spirit group Otto’s Army, said, “I think he’s very sensitive to the needs of the community and the fans, so I think he’ll definitely weigh a lot of options before he makes any big decisions.”
Linsner speculated that he will decide to coach the Duke game to honor the legacy of Jimenez and his family. “I bet that he would coach just as sort of like, you know, a show of we’ll keep moving.”
Local WTVH-TV news anchor Michael Benny tweeted interviews with Boeheim’s friend Adam Weitsman, saying Boeheim, who has yet to speak to press directly, is reacting strongly to the incident.
One of Benny’s tweets reads: “’He’s devastated,’ says friend Adam Weitsman who spoke to Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim briefly this morning. ‘He says the man was in the middle of the road, not along the side or anything like that,’ Weitsman recalls of conversation about the deadly crash last night.”
Friends and family of Jimenez offered tributes over social media. Haydee Vizcaino, a Syracuse resident whose husband was a coworker and friend of Jimenez, said he was the “best person ever.”
“[He was] loved by every person who knew him,” Vizcaino told The NewsHouse via Facebook.
"He's devastated," says friend Adam Weitsman who spoke to Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim briefly this morning. "He says the man was in the middle of the road, not along the side or anything like that," Weitsman recalls of conversation about the deadly crash last night.
— Michael Benny (@MichaelBenny) February 21, 2019
SU Athletic Director John Wildhack issued a statement this morning saying: “We are saddened by the death of a member of our Central New York community. On behalf of Chancellor Kent Syverud and the entire Syracuse University community, we extend our deepest condolences to all impacted by this tragic accident. Coach Boeheim is in contact with local authorities and cooperating fully. Out of respect for those grieving, there will be no further comment at this time.”
In a second statement from Wildhack issued around 5 p.m., he said Boeheim “met briefly with his team today but did not attend or participate in practice.”
ESPN announced around 6 p.m. that “due to the recent tragedy, and after careful consideration due to the celebratory nature of the show, ESPN’s College GameDay will originate from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., this weekend, instead of at Syracuse University. We spoke with school officials and they understand the decision.”
Syracuse Police Press Release
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SU Chancellor Kent Syverud said in an email this afternoon: “On behalf of our entire Syracuse University family, Dr. Ruth Chen and I extend our deepest condolences to the Jimenez family and all those grieving this terrible loss.”
SPD’s investigation is “ongoing,” and a reconstruction of the scene will be performed, according to the press release. The SPD ask that anyone with information contact the department at (315) 442-5222.
Mary Walrath, Dakota Palmer, Erin Gavle, Sabrina Brodkin and Brandon Williams contributed to this report.