It’s a safe bet in four decades of coaching the Syracuse basketball team Jim Boeheim has talked to his players about the right and wrong way to handle difficult situations.
Boeheim found himself in one of those moments Saturday after a 71-57 loss on the road in the season finale at North Carolina State and he bungled it.
One day after the NCAA issued penalties against Syracuse for academic violations, drug violations and impermissible benefits to student-athletes, the postgame press conference was not only the final one of the season for the Hall of Fame coach, it was his first opportunity to answer questions about the findings and punishments, which included a nine-game suspension for him next season.
But Boeheim chose to send assistant coach Mike Hopkins to the press conference in his place along with a statement promising to address the results of the lengthy investigation in the future.
"I want to make sure today, as we play our last game and are together for the last time as team, that the focus is on our players, and all they have done to make our university proud," Boeheim said. "This should be the focus this afternoon and nothing else."
Boeheim is much too savvy and knows all too well there was never any chance of that happening Saturday and he has only himself to blame. Want to celebrate the seniors and talk about the season after the final game of the year? Don’t allow people in your program under your management to break the rules and put yourself and your players in this position.
He should have come to the press conference and answered any and all questions. Rip the Band-Aid off and be done with it. Sure it would have been painful and ugly and uncomfortable, but it was necessary.
It’s hard to see how Boeheim could believe that not showing up to the postgame press conference at the end of this season, of all seasons, after all he and his players have been through, could be the right decision. It’s admirable that he wants his players to get their due, but at a program like Syracuse, that is never a problem.
We learned Saturday that even a guy who has been coaching and dealing with the media for 39 seasons can come off looking like he has a lot to learn.
- - - - - - -