clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Jim Boeheim Apologizes For "Unprofessionalism" Towards Reporter...But Why?

New, 55 comments

Boeheim did something really anti-Boeheim, and it doesn't make much sense.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed any of it, let's quickly recap everything that's happened within the past 72 hours between Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim and Pittsburgh freelance columnist Joe Starkey:

  1. Following Pitt's 83-77 defeat of Syracuse on Saturday, Starkey asked Boeheim what he might say to those who question if the coach "runs a clean program." This, of course, came days after SU self-imposed a 2015 postseason ban in response to the NCAA's investigation into the basketball program. Initially, Boeheim only said that he wouldn't talk about the NCAA investigation. He probably could've stopped there, and that would've been that. But Boeheim, being Boeheim, quickly turned his attention back to Starkey and told the reporter that he doesn't "give a shit what those people think."
  2. Later that night, Starkey's column from the game ran on triblive.com. In it, he heavily criticized Boeheim, even referring to him as "Jim Belichick" and calling the head coach unprofessional. I'm assuming Boeheim knows about the column, even if he hasn't read it.
  3. According to Corey Cohen, an intern at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh (the same station that Starkey hosts a show on), Boeheim called and apologized to Starkey during a commercial break on Monday's show "for his unprofessionalism."
That last part -- that Boeheim would apologize to Starkey -- puzzles me.

If this were any other coach, it wouldn't confuse me. It wouldn't bother me. But this is Jim Boeheim. Lashing out at reporters is what he does. He's said a number of things far worse in response to questions much better than the one Starkey asked Saturday. In my three months covering Syracuse basketball, I've grown to appreciate Boeheim for just that.

Boeheim speaks his mind, something that's incredibly rare among coaches in today's world. I don't support everything he's ever said, but I'd much prefer his lack of a filter to him giving the same monotonous answers that most coaches give. And, at least on the Boeheim scale, I didn't feel he was particularly out of line on Saturday.

Put yourself in Boeheim's shoes. Imagine Syracuse basketball is, in essence, your life's work. You've built it into the top-tier program that it is today. You've been the team's head coach for nearly 40 years, a span in which you've gone to four Final Fours and have even won a National Championship.

Next, imagine someone questions the integrity of your program, of your life's work. Imagine a reporter asks you what Starkey asked Boeheim on Saturday.

How would you react? It's easy to say you would ignore such nonsense from a local reporter, and maybe that's what Boeheim should have done. But, in that moment, it makes sense that it would be difficult for someone as passionate as Boeheim not to get pissed off, especially when (a) Syracuse's most recent violations might not have been that serious, (b) he might not have even been aware of the violations, and (c) we live in an age of college basketball in which it's widely believed that most every school breaks the rules.

Starkey's question was lazy. Clearly, he was fishing for an answer. And good for him. It worked. He got a reaction out of the coach, which he turned into a column that gained some traction. Here's an excerpt from that column:
"If the mandate is to promote an atmosphere of compliance, I'm thinking Gentleman Jim is 0 for 2. I'm thinking he'll come out of this looking bad no matter what. And as with a certain New England Patriots coach, I'm wondering whether his legacy will be forever tainted by the cheating (wouldn't it have been something had Syracuse shown up Saturday with deflated basketballs?)."

Wait, what? I don't even know where to begin with that one. It seems like Starkey's goal was to stir the pot. And, again, good for him. He was successful.

But I still can't figure out why Boeheim felt the need to apologize. It's weird. It doesn't add up. Maybe he was forced into apologizing. But even if that's the case, why now?

This season alone, he's been harsher towards reporters than he was towards Starkey. He called Syracuse.com's Chris Carlson "the worst I've ever been around" for asking if a loss to Miami put Syracuse behind the eight ball for making the NCAA Tournament -- a question on everyone's mind after that game.

Carlson's question was reasonable, and unlike Starkey, he certainly wasn't looking for that type of response. And, the thing is, that's usually the case with Boeheim's outbursts. More often than not, he gets worked up over perfectly reasonable questions. That's what makes this so baffling. If there were ever a time for Boeheim to express some irritation, this was it. But apologizing? To a local Pittsburgh reporter, no less? I never saw such an anti-Boeheim move coming.

Maybe there's more of an explanation still to come. But I'll say it again: this whole thing is weird.