Just about the only way to describe it would be surreal, but amid all the craziness, Jim Boeheim’s best instincts finally prevailed.
I’m not certain if Jim Boeheim will regret tonight’s press conference after his Orangemen pounded Eastern Michigan, 84-48, but he finally brushed aside the Syracuse handlers and answered some questions about the investigation which ultimately got longtime friend and assistant coach Bernie Fine fired Sunday evening. Initially, Boeheim seemed annoyed the media continued to pursue questions pertaining to the scandal after he had read a prepared statement about what he prepared not to discuss, but he later told his school’s SID staff to “give it up” after they tried to steer questions only pertaining to the game and did his job of addressing the situation.
As much as he might wish, this scandal is only beginning to unfurl, so this grueling presser won’t be the last Boeheim endures this season. At times Boeheim seemed almost too glib and cheerful about the matter, perhaps at the prep of Syracuse’s handlers, who have tried to tighten the sails against the storm.
It’s a strategy doomed to fail, and perhaps Boeheim knows it. The idea of any school, corporation or government entity ‘closing ranks’ during a crisis in the information age we live in doesn’t work. The threat isn’t the media. It’s the 20-something with a laptop who’s so amazingly skilled, he or she ends up plying your server of all confidential and purged e-mails, memos and other sensitive information you tried to hide. Don’t believe me? Ask Enron. The truth will emerge, and the sooner you address it, the sooner it goes away.
There were some initial statements Boeheim made which had me scratching me head. Tops on that list was the “ballboys have never traveled with the team” statement, followed by the “we’ve had approximately 1,500 ball boys or ball girls in my 36 seasons” comment. Later, Boeheim admitted late in the presser team coaches have discretion as to who travels with the team and who doesn’t. If Boeheim doesn’t think ESPN and other media outlets aren’t going to pour over old tape looking for holes in that statement, he better be sure that statement was truthful. In fact, late in the presser, he admitted children have traveled with the team at tournament time, a comment which seemed back-track on his original statement.
When I covered college basketball, every team had a handful of ball boys. They were usually sons or daughters or friends of a coach, a regent’s son or daughter, etc. And it was not uncommon for the visitors to have a ball boy around their shoot-around. Does anyone think a coach’s son hasn’t traveled with his father’s team as a ball boy while on Christmas, winter or spring break? C’mon, man.
Boeheim’s ’1,500 ball boys’ comment still amazes me, because that’s an average of nearly 42 different ball boys or girls per season. A statement solely made to distance himself from the knowledge of any particular ball boy or girl allegedly molested? Perhaps, but self-serving, not needed and surely disingenuous.
However, at least Boeheim stood and answered. He admitted his initial statements in support of Fine was based on their longtime working relationship and friendship. And after being a bit more cutesy than he should have been, Boeheim finally showed a bit of understanding about the scandal swirling around him.
While it won’t be the last time he stands in front of the media regarding this scandal, Boeheim was right when he says he’s no Joe Paterno.
~ T.C. Cameron is a three-sport official, author and sports writer from Annapolis, Maryland