As soon as Jim Boeheim said "If I had anyone else he wouldn't play a minute" in regards to Tyler Roberson, you just knew there was some going to be some pushback. You probably didn't expect it to come from Etan Thomas but it created a sense of concern for Roberson's well-being under the stern Syracuse Orange coach.
As Jim Boeheim explained on Brent Axe's radio show Tuesday, that's not how he sees it and its apparently not how Roberson sees it.
"It was an honest reply," Boeheim said. "We were talking about Tyler. I think it's a little overblown. I didn't try to embarrass him. He felt yesterday that I was trying to motivate him. The one frustrating thing as a coach is if you can't get total effort from your player. I have not been able to. I'll take responsibility for that. I'm the head coach. I haven't been able to get him to go all-out all the time. Maybe it's not in his nature. I don't know. But it is frustrating."
"I criticized one of the players," Boeheim said. "I don't like to do it. I don't do it very often. When it's strictly about effort I don't feel that bad. I need to get more effort out of Tyler Roberson. I think he knows that. I don't think he's consciously not giving the effort. He thinks he is. Players do that quite often but we show him the tape, and show him how hard he goes after a ball in certain situations and how he doesn't in another situation. He's not doing that on purpose. He's just not engaged. We have to get him to do that. That's my job."
"I've talked to him in private, I've talked to him in meetings, I've talked to him in practice and it hasn't worked," Boeheim said. "We had a real hard session yesterday in practice where I tried to get him to do some things that I think he's capable of. That's what we're going to continue to do. We're going to try to get every player we have better all the time."
While harsh on the ears, I do believe Jim when he says it was about motivation. It might not be how we like college basketball coaches to be in 2016, but it's how Jim Boeheim acts. And if you're going to sign up to play for him, you know what you're getting into and how he plans on motivating you.
While there, Boeheim also addresses criticism about how he has a double-standard for guys like Trevor Cooney, who never get that same kind of "motivation."
"The facts are Trevor Cooney is shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line, which is above average," Boeheim said. "There are guys that shoot better, but 36 percent is very acceptable. And he's a very good defensive player. So that's why he plays. Somehow people want me to pick on Trevor Cooney when there's nothing to pick on. … He's making the effort, doing everything he can, trying as hard as he can to win the game. Your options are if you have someone else to shoot then you play that guy. We don't have that situation. I'm not going to criticize a guy for missing shots. They're trying their best to make them."
I don't think its any secret that Boeheim has a soft spot for Cooney. He's usually been pretty light on Cooney after rough outings, perhaps out of a sense of protecting his streaky shooter.
But it's also true that Boeheim does treat everyone differently. He probably could lay into DaJuan Coleman but he's decided to basically forget Coleman is even there during press conferences. But his focus on drilling it home to Roberson actually tells me that he's zeroed in on the junior and is trying to help him step up as the team needs him, especially with the lack of depth behind the starters.
The important thing is how Roberson responds on the court. We'll find out on Saturday.