The most jarring thing about the Sports Illustrated article chronicling a week for Syracuse in the brutal Big East...how beaten down Paul Harris seemed to be. Boeheim's walking pet project seems to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders sometimes. For example:
It had been a rough week for Syracuse junior forward Paul Harris, one of many tough ones in the meat grinder known as the Big East Conference...
One-on-one powwows during the week with his coach, Jim Boeheim, had not exactly lifted his spirits and certainly didn't take place at Harris's instigation. On perhaps a dozen occasions, on the court or in the locker room, Boeheim had gone after Harris for hanging his head after bad plays and, as the coach saw it, disregarding instructions.
"To be honest with you, having Coach Boeheim on me all the time is hard," said Harris, whose full-court inbounds pass to junior guard Eric Devendorf all but sealed the game with 18 seconds left in OT after the Orange had blown a 16-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation. "It doesn't do any good debating with him, because you can't win. He gets me thinking too much about mistakes." Harris paused. "But I'm going to keep going because that's what you gotta do. This is the Big East, right?"
Um...chin up, Paul? Then there's this after the UConn loss:
Syracuse is now 18-7 and skidding fast, and Boeheim decides that it's time to "talk big picture for a minute" as he addresses his team in a graveyardlike locker room after the game. "We're 6-6 in the league. We'd all like to be better. But our whole purpose this year is... what? Paul?"
"Get to the NCAA tournament," mumbles Harris.
Ugh for Paul. He's like the kid in class who can't shake the teacher's attention no matter how much he tries. All he wants to do is draw Star Wars characters in his spiral notebook but the teacher keeps pulling him back into the discussion on the Franco-Prussian War.
There's no doubt, Paul's in a bad funk. Harris has only grabbed double-digit boards in one of the last seven games. He scored 14 points against Villanova in spite of himself, thanks to 8-10 shooting from the free-throw line. Otherwise he hasn't made more than field goals in a game since West Virginia (2/4). And all of this is to say nothing of his strange decision-making, bad timing and yet another infamous in-bounding moment against Georgetown. Thankfully for him, it didn't cost SU the game. Had it...they'd still be finding pieces of Paul in Jimmy B's backyard.
The question is...is Paul struggling because he's so inside his head due to Boeheim or is he struggling in spite of Boeheim? Is all of the constant badgering making Paul a better player or is it just making him think too much? Obviously, Jim wouldn't be on Paul if he didn't care about him and want to make him a better player. For Paul's sake, I hope it's the right course of action. He's not going pro anytime soon and that means one more year under Jimmy's wing, whether he likes it or not.