So Jim Boeheim finally opted to speak Thursday. Two hours before the first tipoff of the real first round of March Madness. There’s my first gripe with Syracuse. A couple of colleagues accurately pointed out that move was probably intentional, knowing many basketball writers were scattered in arenas around the country and thus couldn’t detour this way to squeeze a State of the Orange story out on their way to see the schools actually playing this week.
Boeheim spoke in the Carrier Dome for more than an hour. After a 17-minute opening statement, he took questions on the tattered state of his basketball program. Boeheim was his usual self, which means a complex collection of adjectives: Words like arrogant, snarky and condescending quickly come to mind.
While assailing many of the NCAA’s findings and defending his record, Boeheim confirmed the timetable the school revealed this week. He will coach for three more years.
It’s ridiculous. Boeheim should not be the coach for three more minutes.
“The Committee on Infractions has asserted that for the past 10 years I did not promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program, that I did not monitor the activities regarding compliance of those within the program,” Boeheim said. “This could not be further from the truth.”
Boeheim’s defense is rooted in the it’s-not-me line of thinking. Maybe we should ask the folks in Olean how the head-coach-didn’t-know defense worked out in 2003.
It’s Boeheim’s program. He’s responsible for the people working in it. If they’re breaking the rules, it’s on them and it’s on Boeheim.
This case is an ugly one. There’s a lack of enforcement of university drug testing policies. There are implications that work was done for students, that a group going as high as deposed Athletic Director Daryl Gross had fact-finding meetings to figure out how to keep frontcourt standout Fab Melo eligible in 2012. Boosters getting involved.
If this isn’t a textbook example of what the NCAA calls “lack of institutional control,” I don’t know what is.
At age 70, Boeheim has become too big for his school. It happens everywhere in college sports. The coach as deity. The fans, and especially the donors, blindly support him no matter the evidence of his wrongdoing.
Syracuse tried to make a preemptive strike against the NCAA this year by self-imposing penalties, like a postseason ban this year. How touching. The only letters the Orange were putting together this year anyway were N-I-T. Next year, with a prime recruiting class coming in, looks to be a much better outlook and that’s what the school was trying to protect.
Gross was “moved up” in administration and pretty much forced out of his AD chair, a long overdue move. Syracuse got some scholarship reductions. Boeheim got a suspension for some games next season and 108 of his wins were vacated, which is something that has always seemed goofy. Did those games not exist?
The sad irony of the morning starting out with King Boeheim was this was the kind of day hoopheads live for.
The University at Buffalo and U-Albany were in Columbus reveling in their NCAA berths at practice while the face of the self-proclaimed “New York’s College Team” tried to explain away his shame.
Before dinner time, Iowa State and Baylor were both gone and Notre Dame was bowing at the luck of the Irish it was still alive. Butler showed what a bunch of dopes the NCAA committee was for including Texas, and SMU nearly did likewise against UCLA, were it not for a goofy goaltending call in the last seconds.
Former UB star and current UAB assistant coach Turner Battle was celebrating a win over Iowa State and unknown Georgia State coach Ron Hunter forever became the guy who went flying off the sideline stool after his kid hit the game-winning three-pointer against a Baylor team that many folks (slowly raising hand here) thought could go deep into the tournament.
For those of us who covered basketball for many years, however, Hunter’s story is well known. When he was at IUPUI in Indianapolis, he would coach barefoot for a game to raise awareness for the need for proper footwear in poor countries in places like Africa and Central America. He works diligently for Samaritan’s Feet, a charity for the cause.
He even took his team for an exhibition tour last summer to Costa Rica, where it handed out more than 600 shoes to help the cause. That’s being an educator. Stories like Hunter’s are what college athletics can and sometimes actually are about.
Now, that’s not to say Boeheim is without his philanthropy. Boeheim and his wife have a foundation for cancer research. Their annual “Basket Ball” is a fixture on the Central New York scene and has raised more than $5.5 million for cancer research and children’s programming in the area in its 15 years. So it would not be fair to ignore such a key point to his legacy at Syracuse. Syracuse has had a succession plan for several years that called for top assistant Mike Hopkins to take over the program. The school is not confirming that remains in place, but the time should be now.
Hopkins, as the old saying goes, is “good people.” He’s ready to be a head coach. He’s been ready. He talked to St. Bonaventure a couple of times, was once heavy into the process at USC to return to his Southern California roots.
Late Thursday afternoon, Hopkins tweeted: “Don’t read too much into anything that’s been said. I’ve been in conversations w/the Chancellor and feel very comfortable w/our conversations.”
For his part, Boeheim said he will go on as normal for the next three years, even joking “I’m not Derek Jeter. There will be no farewell tour.”
Boeheim has got that right. He should have already been told to say farewell.