Jim Boylan had one championship ring.
He wasn’t sure whether he’d get another one, although he never stopped believing he would.
Almost four decades ago, in 1977, Boylan played an integral role in Marquette University winning the NCAA championship. A gritty guard who was the consummate team player, Boylan scored 14 points as the Warriors defeated North Carolina 67-59 in the title game in Atlanta.
“I was a young kid then,’’ the 61-year-old Boylan said. “But that has meant a lot to me over the years. I got an understanding of what a championship can do for you going forward.
“To be part of that championship was something really special and something I’ve always appreciated.’’
For a long time, it appeared that would be Boylan’s last experience with a championship team. He has been in coaching ever since, first as a player-coach in Switzerland and then in the NBA His first NBA coaching gig was with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1992 when Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens hired him as an assistant coach, advance scout and video coordinator.
Over the next 23 years, Boylan would labor for six other NBA organizations, primarily as an assistant coach with interim heading coaching stints in Chicago and Milwaukee.
While none of those teams won a championship, Boylan never gave up hope of obtaining another title ring.“I always felt there would come an opportunity,’’ Boylan said. “I didn’t know where it would be or when, but you go out there thinking you can win and you do your job the best you can. You always try to keep a positive attitude and that’s what I did for all of these years.
“There’s a lot of guys who have the same approach and it never happens for them. That’s just part of life in the NBA. I’m lucky.’’
Indeed, two years ago Boylan was fortunate to rejoin the Cavaliers as an assistant coach. With the incomparable LeBron James leading the way, the Cavs advanced to the Finals in 2015 before losing to the Golden State Warriors. This year, they exacted revenge by beating the Warriors for the championship, the first in Cavaliers’ history and the first major sports title for Cleveland since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964.
“It was just real satisfying to be part of a championship team,’’ Boylan said. “It’s hard to win in the NBA, so when you do, you really have to appreciate it. And I do.
“I know how hard it is and you never know what one year to the next is going to bring to you. So, for us to be able to get this championship, means a lot to me and to the City of Cleveland that’s been thirsty for a champion for a long, long time.’’