Jim Boeheim isn't fiery in the Bob Knight sense but he is fiery in the old school tough love sense. He's the kind of coach you'd assume most players end up hating for the rest of their life if you didn't know for a fact that so many of them actually love him. Either you like the tough love and it motivates you or you hate the tough love and it turns you away.
We'll find out a lot about Syracuse Orange forward Tyler Roberson in the coming weeks because right now he's the recipient of some extremely tough love. Following a Pitt loss in which the junior scored a big ol' goose-egg despite 25 minutes of play, Boeheim didn't mince words on how he felt.
"If I had anyone else he wouldn't play a minute. Not a minute. You watched the game. I'm not going to describe what he did out there to you."
Roberson is just eight games removed from his monster performance against Duke, in which he scored 14 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, but his production has fallen precipitously in recent contests. Since scoring 12 and getting 15 boards vs. Virginia Tech, Tyler hasn't hit double-digits in either category in four games. Boeheim has cut his playing time as well, limiting him to 20-something minutes per game instead of 30+.
Boeheim likes to say that can do just fine with "six or seven guys" but what he usually doesn't take into account is, when one of those guys struggles, it throws off the entire balance. Right now, Syracuse has multiple guys struggling and that's why they're losing. Is it fatigue? Streaky play? Are they coming back down to Earth after playing above their talent? Hard to tell.
Roberson didn't seem too pleased to hear Boeheim's comments following the game.
"That's what he thinks. I mean, that's his opinion. I don't know."
And this is that moment for Tyler. Like so many other Syracuse players before him, he can hear that and let it motivate him to do better or he can hear it and decide to check out.
Boeheim is a coach who likes to give the players all the rope they want. Then, they can either use it to pull themselves up or they can use it to hang themselves with. The decision is now yours, Tyler.