Syracuse Basketball: The Blame Game

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

An old problem means another round of the Blame Game for Syracuse hoops.

I had nothing to do with it. Honestly. I was in the living room playing with my two year old son. But boy, did I feel the wrath. My wife, frying up some bacon in the kitchen, spilled some "bacon juice" on the floor. Frustrated over her mistake, she looked for the nearest dishtowel to quickly resolve her problem. Of course, there were no accessible towels as I had just taken them downstairs to start a load of laundry.

I quickly became the center of her frustration and the cause of her pretty gross problem. Again, I wasn't even in the room, but I forgot to put out other towels...so I was to blame for her spilling something.

And really, that's the way of the world. A man-made mistake? We look to the man, woman, or some combination of the two, that screwed something up. A natural disaster? We look to for the same culprits that didn't do enough to prevent the resulting damage. Big or small, a problem for a lot of people is just a way to vent out some frustration. Especially if said problem is a repeat issue.

It's the same with Syracuse's James Southerland. The senior reserve, seen as a key if Syracuse plans on sticking around come March, is suspended indefinitely -- possibly an academics related issue (although, that may not be the case. Just throwing that out there).

I think a lot of fans thought the Michael Carter-Williams "Lord & Taylor" weird shop-lifting thing was this season's unwelcomed drama, but that wasn't to be. For the second straight year Syracuse basketball losses a key player at a crucial point in the season to a vague, probably school-work, related suspension. Last year, when Fab Melo was given the boot, most fans weren't too surprised given the big man's reputation. But Southerland?

Now fans and journalists are wondering, how could this happen two years in a row? Is something wrong here? Who's to blame!?

The fault seems to fall somewhere below:

  • The Leader - James Arthur Boeheim - His program has been under siege for a few years now -- from rumored attacks to real problems. And the sticking point for Boeheim is his reputation as an NBA coach -- an Xs and Os guy who treats his players like men. Meaning: Once practice or a game is over, it's up to the players to act accordingly.
  • The Coaching Staff - Everyone after Boeheim - It's their responsibilities to coddle the players. And that's not just an "SU" thing, that's at every school across the country. Assistants have some role here, lower ranking staff members too, along with academic advisers. Most head coaches don't worry about study hours being completed, that's up to a lot of other people. And if Southerland had a class related issue, that's on them.

I'm leaving out one, obvious, suspect, but we'll circle back around to him in a minute. I wanted to take a second to poke a hole in the case against Boeheim first. Starting with the coach's reputation, which reminds me a lot of Brett Favre (stick with me here). Favre was for many years seen as the fun-loving QB who would sling the ball all over the field, anything to create a play and win a game. But once Favre starting to get a little too much attention, everyone pointed to his "gun-slinging" ways the reason to knock him. (Yes, there were other issues, especially later in his career, but the "gunslinger" rep was the main point of contention for a lot of people.)

I get that Favre really was too much of a slinger, but that wasn't something that happened later in his career, that was what made Brett Favre Brett Favre. The media ate it up until it didn't fit the popular narrative anymore -- everyone just got sick of him, his waffling, his popularity. It's similar to Boeheim's "NBA coach" rep. First the Hall of Famer is praised for being all about basketball and letting everyone else be themselves and be adults. Now it's Boeheim is too hands-off, too much like an NBA coach, and that's why the program has issues like this with Southerland.

Could Boeheim do more? That's a question none of us really know the answer to. We've heard that Boeheim is hands-off off the court, but is that really the case? Maybe he is with some of his players, maybe he isn't with some of the other players. It's a reputation that is seen as reality and is now seen as a reason to lay blame. Boeheim is the head coach and therefore he will get his fair share of the blame, moreso than his coaching staff -- even if they failed to provide real information -- but how much blame should he get?

Still, the real "suspect" that most, if not all of, the blame should fall on is Southerland himself. No matter what he did or didn't do, it's likely any suspension could have been avoided. He should be the one responsible enough to take care of himself. This doesn't make him a bad guy, he's just growing up in front of a rabid fan base and he's learning the hard way.

Southerland's issue, even though or because other players have had the same, has made Boeheim the centerpiece of fan's frustrations and the cause of a "problem." It's like my wife with the "bacon juice" or anyone else who has ever wanted to blame someone for something gone wrong.

The old coach's ways being called into question when, really, it's just his players are the ones spilling everything.

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