Jim Boeheim is just a couple of months from one hell of a public shaming. Come the end of December, the Hall of Fame coach will have to stay away from his basketball program for a month. He can't coach his Syracuse Orange in games, he can't even show up to practice. For basically thirty days during the heart of the basketball season, Jim Boeheim will being doing something he hasn't done in over forty years: Something else.
Now, there are a lot of moving pieces that still need to fall into place here. Boeheim is appealing his nine-game suspension that officially kicks in when Syracuse hits the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of its schedule at the end of December. The NCAA could grant Boeheim some leniency and reduce the ban or even take it completely off the table. Both being best-case scenarios for the coach.
If Boeheim misses a couple of games, or none at all, that would be a massive win for him. Boeheim is one of those very private public figures who shuns a lot of the spotlight and rarely opens up too much -- giving cold shoulders to the local media on a regular basis. But for what little we do know about him, there's an understanding of just how damn important coaching is to his being, his DNA. He's been the head coach at Syracuse for four decades now because he's really good at what he does and because he really doesn't want to do anything else.
So, if he is forced to watch his team play on television instead of from the sideline like he has done for roughly 1,300 games, well, let's just say it will be tough for him. Mostly because he won't be there for his players, his assistants, for the game he loves. But the reason of his missing games will also likely strike very deep.
The NCAA set out to make an example of him and if he's gone, that nonprofit, billion-dollar business will have succeeded. The Powers That Be labeled Boeheim's program as one with a "lack of institutional control," claiming for over a ten-year period multiple violations occurred repeatedly. And for all those rules said to be broken, the coach could soon be paying up, dearly.
But a question remains: Was the point to that report from last spring more of making it known that NO ONE is safe from the NCAA rather than placing extra emphasis on a coach's ability to oversee? The report never indicated Boeheim in actually doing anything against the rules, but it did repeatedly paint him as someone who should have known rules were being broken. That's why we were led to believe that Boeheim was being osterized: Coaches are CEOs and they should know what's happening within their operation. Yet, it did read a little like some high-ups were just sick of Boeheim, a now two-time violator and known curmudgeon who may be a little too above the law.
Which leads me to Rick Pitino and Louisville. The scandal dujour right now, one that gets crazier by the tweet. It's another Hall of Fame coach with plenty of sway but with a program clearly in the cross-hairs. The Cardinals are in a state of chaos, dealing with accusations of recruits partying with strippers paid for by someone within the basketball program. Lack of institutional control? Sure seems that way right now. Yet, for his part, Pitino has denied any knowledge of rules violations, and the administration there is (for now) backing him publicly. For all the "she said/she said" that's going on with UofL, there hasn't been anything that proves Pitino knew or would have known.
If you think Boeheim didn't know there was cheating and bending of the rules underneath him, it's not too far of a walk to do the same about Pitino's situation. But that shouldn't matter. It's kind of in the wheelhouse of sorts for the NCAA, really. A program broke rules without the supposed knowledge of the head man; cut and dry case here. Pitino should be ready to feel the wrath.
According to what happened to the SU head man, anyway. But I'm dubious about how this plays out is the the NCAA we're talking about here.
Sure, there is a view that the NCAA backed up its punishment of Jim Boeheim when it hammered SMU and Larry Brown. The Mustangs will serve a post-season ban this year, lose some scholarships, last year's wins have been vacated and head coach Brown was hit with a "show-cause" and will end up serving a suspension that amounts to nine games (edited to reflect that the suspension is for thirty-percent of the season). It mirrors the SU penalties. But there is one glaring difference: Brown allegedly wasn't forthcoming during the NCAA investigation of his program, even lying to investigators.
Jim Boeheim didn't do that, though. Jim Boeheim staunchly defended his tactics, his program and even his school. He metaphorically gave the middle finger to the infractions committee and has taken public jabs at the NCAA ever since. But the one thing Jim Boeheim wasn't remotely accused of is lying. Really, you can make an airtight case that, even with the "show-cause," the NCAA let Brown off the hook in comparison to Boeheim.
With Pitino and Louisville it's different and yet it's the same.The accusations sound far worse but the basic core is similar: A coach failed to monitor all that is underneath him. And if Boeheim is going to be excommunicated from the Church of Basketball in the most public fashion for a month this season, then Pitino should be facing a similar flogging. Probably something worse than what is hanging over Boeheim, but that doesn't matter right now.
What's important, if the facts of the Cardinals' scandal is proven as more than just salacious accusations, is that it's now when we should really see what the NCAA was going for when it went hard after the Syracuse coach. Pitino, despite his own personal issues, has always been viewed in a different light than Boeheim. He's not the guy anyone looks to make an "example" out of; no curmudgeon with the potential enemies like that of Boeheim. But, character and past good deeds aren't of the NCAA's concern. Major rules were broken under Rick Pitino's watch and if the NCAA is to be believed, that's a pretty big no-no for a coach. Right now is the time to prove it.