Jim Boeheim is nothing if not truthful. That's not always appreciated and it doesn't mean it's automatically correct, but I'd rather have to go to bat to defend someone who speaks their mind over trying to squeeze meaning from someone who just toes the line.
I don't agree with everything Jim Boeheim had to say in his interview with Brent Axe on Monday. What more, I find myself wondering how he can say some of those things and then walk into the living room of a five-star recruit and promise them what they want to hear (obviously he can, but, you know what I mean). How do you instill trust in a guy who thinks he's, at worse, a two-and-done player, when you're on the record as to saying you don't really like two-and-done players?
Boeheim was careful enough to provide examples of Syracuse Orange players who left early and made the right choice. He cites Dion Waiters and Carmelo Anthony as two underclassmen who were physically-ready for the NBA. He also holds up Donte Greene as his prime example of guys who left early and chose poorly, perhaps coming back to Donte two or three times more often than he needs to before it gets awkward.
He dances around Tyler Ennis's decision by saying Tyler has all of the tools but his physicality is the question mark. He's much more pointed when it comes to Jerami Grant, all but saying outright that Grant made the wrong decision. His message is clear. Nine times out of ten, you're better off staying a year (or two) more than you think you need. "Look at C.J. Fair," he seems to be exclaiming (even cursing).
Boeheim also makes sure not to mention guys like Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Andy Rautins, Rick Jackson or even Gerry McNamara. Guys who stayed for the full ride but who were ultimately unable to secure long-term employment in the NBA. Pro teams saw their full college careers and what they saw left them wanting. Perhaps none of them would have fared any better by leaving early but given that there was no longer much mystery to any of them, it removed much doubt.
Also unsaid is the implication that Boeheim is, in some way, rooting against Ennis and Grant to succeed in the pros. That he wants to be able to point to more examples of guys who made mistakes so he can tell the next stud freshman, "See...that guy was better than you and look what happened to him!" I don't think he actually wants this, but it's becoming the perception with every not-so-subtle dig.
Boeheim's prone to hyperbole and perhaps his assessment that Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams would have spent the season in the D-League if he went to a different team seems a tad much, even if there is a logical point in there. If the Spurs had drafted him, perhaps that is true. But 90% of the teams would have kept MCW around, given his talent and obvious ability to translate his game to the pros.
The problem for Boeheim is that he's coming off more and more like he's blaming the players for leaving early. That's a cynical way to look at it. The truth is that the players are merely doing what they think is the best decision given the way the sausage is made. The NBA Draft is based on potential. The longer you stay in college, the less potential you have and the more of a known quantity you become. The longer you stay, the more likely you are to get injured or to see your minutes get usurped by an incoming five-star talent. The longer you stay, the longer you play for free while your contemporaries play for millions.
You never want to be on the wrong side of history and the louder Boeheim gets about players staying, the more he's being identified as a dinosaur whose grasping to hold on to an outdated system that benefits the people in his position more than it benefits the players. At least, financially.
The game is changing and the world is changing. As Syracuse fans we've already adapted to a world in which our best players are here for two seasons at-most. I don't know if Mark Cuban's vision for a full minor league will ever happen but we're more likely to head in that direction than we are to moving backward.
I can see the struggle within Jimmy B. He knows what the deal is and he somewhat accepts it. But he also can't let go of his own perfect vision of college basketball, dead as it may be.
The truth is, players are ready when they're ready. Sometimes that's after four seasons and sometimes that's after one. And sometimes they're never ready. You can point to those guys as heroes who did it "the right way" but the truth is that they simply didn't have a choice in the matter. Trust me, if he was good enough and he could have, Andy Rautins would have left after his freshman year.
Sometimes they'll be wrong. There's a decent chance Jerami Grant will be in Europe this time next year. But there's also a chance he'll be on an NBA roster and anyone who says they can predict either is a liar. Regardless, that's not the point. You can't stop people from doing what they want. You can only try to prepare them in the time you have.
I still say I welcome Boeheim speaking his mind and I appreciate that he has a strong opinion about, well, everything. There was a time, as recently as a few years ago, that Boeheim's comments probably would have been met with a cacophony of support. Today...not so much. The tide is turning and the reality of college basketball has changed. I don't need Jim Boeheim to change with it, but I hope he starts to recognize it more fully.