In sports, we abhor honesty.
We really do. You think that's not true. Your gut reaction is that I'm full of crap. That, duh, of course we want people to be honest instead of getting canned responses and generic platitudes.
But in practice, we really dislike honest people in sports. Because honesty can be ugly. Honesty can be dirty. Honesty can be unpleasant.
Canned responses are always positive. They always keep the chains moving. They keep the wheels in motion.
But honesty? Honesty can derail narrative. Honesty changes the course of things. It distracts and it draw attention.
Jim Boeheim is a living, breathing example of this.
Now, before we get too far into this, I am biased. I am a Syracuse fan of many years and I am engineered to like Jim Boeheim, unlike, say, 99% of college basketball fans, who are engineered to hate Jim Boeheim.
But as a Syracuse fan who happens to write about Syracuse every day, I'm also in the unique position of having watched Boeheim up close (in a manner of speaking) for a long time. I read all the soundbites that don't make it to the national desk. I see all the interactions that go no further than local media. I notice all the peccadilloes and moments that don't get turned into GIFs.
I've said this before and I will said it until he is gone. Jim Boeheim's two greatest faults are his honesty and his absoluteness. Honesty is great. Honesty is refreshing. Honesty is what makes him engaging.
But absoluteness is what does Boeheim in. He speaks first, thinks second and then sticks to his original thought anyway. That's usually what gets him into trouble. That's how he ended up getting sued.
All of this leads up to Boeheim's comments on Sportscenter this morning in which he told ESPN that he thought Tyler Ennis should have stayed for another year.
"I think he’s a great college player," Boeheim said. "I think physically he probably could’ve used another year. A little bit different than Dion Waiters who I had a couple of years ago who left. I think Dion was physically better, more physically ready.
"I think when you go to the NBA you need to be as physically ready as you can be, Boeheim said.
"So I think Tyler could’ve benefitted from another year, but certainly he’s a tremendous player and a very, very smart point guard. And I think the one thing I think is point guard is probably the hardest position to break into in the NBA, it’s a very difficult position, but he’s got the skillset to do that. It’s just a question of him landing in the right place."
Now, let's be clear that if Tyler Ennis thinks he should go pro, Ennis should go pro. If someone is telling you that, at worst, you're looking at a payday in the low millions by the time you're 20, you jump and you don't look back. Ready or not, here you come.
It's a perfect example of Boeheim speaking truth and doing it in an absolute way. Everybody knew that Boeheim didn't think Ennis should declare. This is the same guy who pushed Jonny Flynn to test the draft waters and praised Dion Waiters as well as Michael Carter-Williams when they went pro. He's the kind of coach who thinks players should be able to transfer freely. Bo Ryan, he is not.
So when Ennis declared and Boeheim demurred, the silence was deafening.
He didn't have to go on Sportscenter and say Tyler should have stayed. We already knew he felt that way. But his absoluteness got the better of him. He wanted to make sure everyone knew where he stood and that overruled etiquette or ethics or whatever else you want to put this under.
And so, articles like this one from Deadspin are sprouting up again. Like most of these anti-Boeheim screeds, it confuses Boeheim's opinion on Ennis with his opinion on all players leaving early. A quick web search would have cleared that up for you.
But, ultimately, it's Boeheim's fault because he opened his mouth, honesty came out and he doesn't have the particular filter that tells the brain, "You know, I think you've made your point." And we really, really don't like it when your filter stops working.
Yes, Boeheim makes a lot of money. Yes, Tyler Ennis was not making any money at Syracuse. Yes, some of Boeheim's ideas about player compensation are not the kind I agree with. But, no, Boeheim is not a "loyal soldier," as Tom Ley puts its. We're literally two days removed from Boeheim demanding that the NCAA change its "stupid" rule forcing kids to declare by April 15.
If Boeheim had just premised his comments around that rule, which is clearly driven by his disappointment over Ennis declaring, he might have saved himself this trouble.
If I weren't a Syracuse fan, I'd hate Jim Boeheim too. Because all I'd know about him is peripheral information, quotes without context and the inability to do a Google search on his history. Kinda like how I feel about Coach K or Roy Williams or Urban Meyer.
The point of the Deadspin piece, like so many pieces railing Boeheim, is that Jim should sit down and shut up and be a good little boy. He should play the game correctly. He should tow the line and leave the opinions for the sportswriters, who really know the score here.
Jim Boeheim doesn't know how to do that. It ain't always pretty because of that, but I'll take his brand of honesty even when I don't like it any day of the week over whatever fake version they want to see.
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