SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man standing along an interstate late Wednesday night as he tried to avoid hitting the man’s disabled vehicle, police say.
Syracuse police say 51-year-old Jorge Jimenez was an occupant in a vehicle with three others when they lost control and hit a guardrail before midnight Wednesday on I-690 in Syracuse.
Boeheim struck Jimenez as he stood on the side of the road while trying to avoid the vehicle in the middle of the highway. Jimenez was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
“I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as the result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a prepared statement. The 74-year-old Basketball Hall of Fame coach said he and his wife Juli “extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family.”
He said he would not comment further “out of respect for those involved.”
Police said Boeheim is cooperating with the investigation.
“He stopped immediately and exited the vehicle,” said Syracuse Sgt. Matthew Malinowski.
Police said sobriety tests administered to Boeheim and the unidentified driver of the other vehicle were negative for any signs of impairment. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he has known Boeheim for 40 years and that the coach does not drink.
No tickets have been issued to Boeheim at this time and the investigation is continuing.
“At this point … it appears to be just a God-awful tragedy,” Fitzpatrick said.
Jimenez’s daughter told the Post-Standard he was with friends buying cigarettes when he was killed. Yurisandy Jimenez Arrastre described her father – a native of Cuba who lived in the United States for 20 years – as a family man who loved to cook and tell jokes.
“My father was a man who was very sociable, very happy. He loved to help everybody without question,” Arrastre told the newspaper in Spanish. “He loved having friends.”
Light rain and freezing rain were falling Wednesday night, though it is unclear if the weather had anything to do with the crash.
Just hours before, Boeheim’s team defeated 18th-ranked Louisville 69-49 at the Carrier Dome.
He met his wife, his daughter and some friends for a dinner out after the game and was driving alone from the restaurant, Fitzpatrick said. The scene of the accident is between the dome and Boeheim’s suburban home.
Syracuse University director of Athletics John Wildhack said in a statement the university sent its condolences to “all impacted by this tragic accident.” Wildhack echoed police, saying Boeheim “is in contact with local authorities and cooperating fully.”
Boeheim has coached at Syracuse, his alma mater, since 1976 and is one of the most accomplished coaches in the country. He ranks second all-time in wins in Division I with 944, behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Over his 43 years at Syracuse, Boeheim has led the team to a national title in 2003 and five Final Four appearances.