The lethal combination of Jim Boeheim's hypersensitiveness to criticism and a recent flurry of doom-and-gloom stories about Syracuse combined to set the stage for one of the season's most explosive news conferences.
Boeheim tore into the Syracuse media Monday night after the Orange defeated West Virginia 63-52 to steady themselves after a wobbly stretch of six losses in eight games. He lambasted reporters for what he perceives as unfair criticism of him and his team, highlighting in particular the coverage from Saturday's loss to Louisville that noted Boeheim has now lost seven straight to Rick Pitino.
"One of his teams (at Providence) went to the Final Four, and we beat him three times," Boeheim said. "Now we're going to all of a sudden put in the paper that I lost to Rick Pitino six straight? Why don't you put in that I beat him six straight. Go ahead. That's really good. Why don't you keep doing that? That's really good. I appreciate that.
"You want to talk about personal? Yeah, it's personal. When people write and say things about me, it's personal to me. Always will be."
What prompted Boeheim's tirade were stories addressing the recent rough patch the Orange have endured since starting 18-0. Boeheim chastised reporters for focusing on "a little segment" of Syracuse's season, noting that the Orange (21-6) are still on pace to live up to preseason expectations.
The testiest moments of Boeheim's tirade highlighted some of the best and worst aspects of his personality.
Part of the reason he's led Syracuse to eight Big East titles and three Final Fours is he's so passionate about his work. But part of the reason he can be prickly to be around is even after 35 years coaching the Orange, he's still thin-skinned enough to take issue with the slightest criticism.
How does a Hall of Fame coach who just won his 850th game allow himself to be worked into a lather by stories noting that his team had been struggling and that he'd lost seven in a row to a peer?
Where Boeheim was most out of line was in publicly singling out Syracuse Post-Standard beat writers Mike Waters and Donna Ditota. Boeheim brought up that he's been successful against John Beilein and asked Ditota if she knew his record against the Michigan coach.
"No idea," Ditota said.
"Well, then you don't know your business," Boeheim said.
"Why would I know that?" Ditota responded. "Why would I know John Beilein's record against you? When is the last time you played John Beilein?"
"This year," Boeheim said. "Mike, you know?"
"I don't think he's ever beaten you," Waters said.
"Yeah, you don't think," Boeheim said. "You're right. That's the way they work here. They think that's cute."
Unless either of the Post-Standard's beat writers have taken personal attacks on Boeheim in print, he was out of line during that exchange.
The entire exchange would have been better suited for a closed-doors meeting rather than a public press conference.