‘Coach Clary’: Meet the man who keeps Syracuse men’s basketball safe

first_img Published on October 31, 2018 at 11:23 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 After what Jim Boeheim called the “worst call of the year” — after he ripped off his jacket in disgust, after he berated officials, someone needed to escort him off the court.It was Feb. 22, 2014 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Orange trailed Duke by a basket with just over 10 seconds left when C.J. Fair drove along the baseline and met Duke’s Rodney Hood in front of the basket. Fair hit Hood, who fell back on the floor. The officials called an offensive foul on Fair, prompting Boeheim to jolt off his seat.Andrew Clary jolted up, too.“I was like, ‘Oh my! This isn’t going to be good,’” Clary, a member of Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety, recalled. “So I bounced off and tried to stay close to him when he ripped off the jacket.”Wearing a gray suit, Clary walked along Boeheim’s right side, then behind him, as both headed toward the Syracuse locker room while Blue Devils fans screamed. Clary, 48, is the man who not only keeps Boeheim safe, but also the entire Syracuse men’s basketball roster and staff. He sits behind the team bench during every game and travels with SU ensuring players abide by the 11 p.m. curfew in the team hotel, usually a Marriott.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSince starting the role in 2012, “Coach Clary” has become a mainstay for the Orange. Freshman Buddy Boeheim calls him “copper,” referring to Clay’s role in DPS. The Oswego, New York, native, who now lives in Baldwinsville, walks Boeheim out of the Carrier Dome to his car after games, shares a laugh with players on the bench, and helps them deal with the rigors of a college basketball season. When Syracuse arrives at team hotels, Clary gets a list of each player’s room assignment for security reasons. He has every player’s cell phone number.“He’s been really helpful for our team,” Boeheim said. “He travels with us a lot, if there’s a potential for something, he’s always right there. As a coach, I’m responsible for what they’re doing late at night, but you need somebody around them who can guide them. He’s so good with them.”Sports teams are putting security at the forefront in recent years, as concerns about fan behavior escalate. Louisville and Wake Forest are among the Atlantic Coast Conference teams with a security guard who travels, Clary said. Recently, Boston College, which is considering adding a guard this season, consulted Clary on security.Clary sits behind Boeheim on the bench when the Orange hit the road. For home games, he sits only a few feet away from the players. Over several seasons, he’s been to hundreds of regular-season games and two Final Fours. He’s embedded in the program’s daily operations, from recruiting to practice to game day. Clary was one of the first people senior point guard Frank Howard met when he arrived at SU as a freshman.“He’s always around for us,” Howard said. “But he doesn’t make exceptions for us just because we’re on the basketball team, either.”Clary keeps an eye over SU players because, in the few years surrounding 2010, he said the program was “having some problems with our players.” Stan Kissel, a former director of basketball operations, asked Clary to travel with them. Kissel noticed “certain players were giving us a hard time,” Clary recalled.Plus, Boeheim wanted someone to be with the players at team meals, during check-in at the hotel and on the team charter flight. He said he wanted an extra set of eyes. While Boeheim said it’s his responsibility that players behave, Clary’s presence takes a little bit of pressure off himself and the rest of the coaching staff.“The sense of security he brings and the friendships he brings, it wouldn’t be the same if he weren’t here,” said Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara. “He’s part of the team.”Senior center Paschal Chukwu says he waves to Clary when they pass on campus, and he enjoys sharing laughs with the “team cop” on road trips or in the locker room. Clary jokes with the team’s equipment manager, Dan Shworles. After games, he roams in the locker room to ensure players pack up and leave the venue safely.At Clary’s office in Sims Hall sits a Syracuse basketball backpack, a part of the net he cut during SU’s 2016 Final Four run and a signed Joe Montana photograph above his computer monitors. Montana, an NFL Hall of Famer, mailed Clary the photograph in September 2013, after he attended a Syracuse-Tulane football game in the Carrier Dome. Montana was watching his son, Nate, Tulane’s then-quarterback. But fans near Montana’s seat behind Tulane’s bench got rowdy.“Hey, we hope your son breaks his neck,” Clary recalled a fan yelling to Montana at the Carrier Dome.Clary walked over to Montana and his wife and escorted them to a box. After the game, he walked Montana to the visitor’s locker room so he could speak with Nate. Montana was so appreciative of Clary’s efforts that he mailed him the signed photograph.Growing up, Clary wanted to be a cop — the idea of protecting others seemed cool, he said. First, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Missouri. He spent a few years protecting military bases in Korea, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. In 1996, he started his law enforcement career in Syracuse.Before his current role with the program, he’d walk into Manley Field House or the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center just to say hello.“It used to be that DPS would go to practice and the players right away are like, ’Oh man, who’s in trouble? Why is DPS here?’” Clary said. “I’d be like, ‘Nobody’s in trouble, I’m just hanging out, watching practice.’ They’ve gotten used to it now.”Last season, former Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer said Clary was one of his biggest mentors. Moyer struggled during Syracuse’s loss at Florida State last January when the Orange faced a 10-point deficit at halftime. In the locker room, Boeheim “got into me” for a few mistakes, Moyer said. Before Syracuse returned for the second half, Clary walked up to Moyer and tapped him on the shoulder.“Matt,” Clary said, according to Moyer. “Don’t worry about that. Go out there and just play.”“He’s helped me become a young adult,” Moyer, now a forward for Vanderbilt, said later. “Coach Boeheim can be tough sometimes. Coach Clary’s a guy who can come in and cheer you up, always with a smile.”Last season, Clary’s girlfriend, Rhonda, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Clary said in September that her hair is growing back, and she’s finished with chemotherapy and radiation. But last season, she “was in a really rough spot, not sure how much more she could take,” Clary said. He told her he’d stay home more and travel less often with SU, so that he could support her.Rhonda, battling breast cancer, refused.It’s OK, she told him: “Go to the games and protect those guys.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more