Interpreting Jim Boeheim: You're Doing It Wrong

Nine times out of ten, when my wife and I have a disagreement over something I've done, it's because of how I reacted rather than what I've actually done.

It's not that I (yet again) did a terrible job cleaning the dishes. It's the way I smirked when she confronted me. The way I tried to tell her I did a better job than she thinks. That it's not THAT big a deal. That I lightly chuckle before I defend myself.

It's all that other stuff that usually turns a one minute discussion into a fifteen minute fight for survival.

And she's right. She's absolutely right. I smirked and chuckled not because I think it's funny or that she's wrong but because I know I've f***ed up and that's my defense mechanism. I know that I tell her it's not a big deal because I'm ashamed that I am a 33-year-old man who still can't clean a baking sheet to save my life and I feel like a schnook.

I get passive-aggressive. I curl up in a little ball inside my brain and do whatever I can to make it go away. That's what I do (or, as I'd like to say, used to do).

Thank God there aren't any reporters in the kitchen when I'm cleaning dishes. They might watch me smirking and come to the conclusion that I'm a jerk. That I'm selfish and arrogant and a terrible husband.

I'd like to think none of that is true, but if those reporters just took me at face value in those moments...that would be the impression that the world now knows. That would be "my truth."

And I know I'm not alone here. Every day we see it. We see it in ourselves, we see it in our co-workers and we see it in everyone around us. That guy who's being a jerk to the barista? He feels inadequate. That lady who yelling into her telephone as a customer service rep? She feels impotent. That mean co-worker you loathe? He's lonely and terrified and cries when he gets home every night.

We like to think most people are jerks. The truth is most people are just scared.

A lot of folks have walked away from Jim Boeheim's press conference Tuesday night with some pretty bad assumptions about his character. Pat Forde, chief among them, said Boeheim doesn't seem to grasp the severity of the situation:

On this night, he sounded like another icon coach caught in a moment he can’t quite decipher, facing criticism he can’t quite fathom, failing to understand that a lifetime of having all the answers in a sporting context doesn’t mean you have all the answers in the greater realm. He sounded like a guy who doesn’t get it.

Thank the Lord that Pat Forde is not your psychiatrist. Actually, thank the Lord that Pat Forde is not your teacher or a counselor or in any sort of profession where his impression of other human beings is used for legitimate reasons.

Because all Pat Forde did was look at the exterior of Jim Boeheim.

Anyone who's followed Jim Boeheim for years would tell you that Jim Boeheim is scared right now. Terrified. Downright afraid. It's so obvious, it's painful.

The last really memorable press conference Jim Boeheim did before the Bernie Fine scandal was in February. Syracuse had recently played Louisville and The Post-Standard ran a graphic that showed Boeheim's career record against Rick Pitino. It was unfavorable towards Boeheim and he took exception. He used his pulpit to berate Post-Standard reporters, rattled off the names of prominent coaches he has winning records against, told P-S reporter Donna Ditota she didn't "know her business" and generally put on the kind of show we've come to expect (watch it here).

The initial reaction was that Boeheim was a bully. He was arrogant. He was mean. All of that was true in that moment. But what so many people didn't seem interested in is where all of that came from.

You don't have to be an expert to know where it came from. Fear. Fear that he wasn't being perceived as an elite coach. Fear that Rick Pitino is better than him. Fear that he's not in the class of guys like Roy Williams and Jim Calhoun.

All of Boeheim's fears and the way that he deals with them were on display in that press conference.

You think Jim Boeheim has thick skin. You are so very wrong. Jim Boeheim's skin is as thin as there is.

Just like he did in Tuesday's presser, Boeheim always talks about how he doesn't care about stats or wins or Final Fours or any of that but that's nonsense. The February press conference was proof that he does. That he does care what you think of him. That you might actually think, because of a colorful graph in the newspaper, he's not as good as he knows he is.

The thought of that is terrifying to a man who has spent his entire adult life cultivating a mythos in Central New York (purposefully or not).

It's the same reason he won't retire now. It's the same reason he's holding out for one more deep run. One more Final Four. Something that will put a capstone on his Hall-of-Fame career and make his basketball legacy crystal clear.

And don't forget everything else Boeheim does and how that could be ruined. The millions he's raised for cancer research. The charity work, the clinics, the playgrounds, the events...all of it goes to help other people and all of it could be ruined thanks to him.

And so, Boeheim got up there Tuesday and the first thing he did was crack a joke. Folks like Pat Forde and Rick Reilly took that to mean he didn't grasp the severity of what was happening. Me? I saw in Jim Boeheim the same exact reaction I make when I realize the dishes I just washed are still sopping with grease.

He deflected. He was passive-aggressive. He tried in vain to get out of it.

He was me.

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