Jim Boeheim is of another place and time. I don't mean that literally, although that is true as the years go on. I mean to say that he is of our world and yet he is also not.
His actions and his words are often feel concrete in their meaning and yet just as often they contradict one another.
For example, it would be very easy to look at the plight of Kaleb Joseph and say to yourself, "Boeheim is deliberately benching him as a strong-arm tactic to get him to transfer and free up the scholarship." You could back it up with stats that tell you Joseph went from a starter last year to a glorified walk-on by 2016. Joseph DNP'd 12 of Syracuse's last 15 games and his only appearance since January was a Club Trillion event.
(Yes I know Club Trillion requires a 1 up front but you get the point so shut up)
There's a long-running sense that Boeheim has a history of nudging guys out the door that he doesn't want to deal with anymore. It's been said of both Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, both of whom had a year of eligibility left. Last year's double-transfer of B.J. Johnson and Ron Patterson kicked the assumptions up a notch. Whether or not any of them are true is beside the point.
So you could make a strong case based on actions (or lack thereof) that Boeheim is done with Joseph and wants him gone. Joseph's high school coach certainly thinks it's the case:
"This is just my two cents but they're treating him unfairly, they're trying to run him off," said Connors, who repeatedly said he did not want to be viewed as speaking for Joseph but was offering his opinion on the season. "Jim Boeheim and (assistant coach) Mike Hopkins, they know, or think, they need a better player to get where they want to go. They saw a player they can recruit over. Maybe he's not the player they thought he was, but they're the ones who recruited him."
"You can read between the lines on this," Connors said. "Jim Boeheim gets in trouble. How many scholarships do they lose? That's to punish Jim Boeheim for the what they've done or supposedly done. Kaleb's situation is that he got beat out. No worries. That happens. But you've lost scholarships. So what do you do? You either wait for him to do something stupid so you can kick him off the team or you get him to go somewhere else. ... They're not the only ones doing this. It's the whole system. But they are 100 percent doing him wrong."
It's a very plausible theory. College basketball can be cutthroat and the Orange are in deep thanks to scholarship reductions, transfers, and other issues.
And then you hear what Jim Boeheim has to say about it and you stop right in your tracks.
"Do you know what forcing a player out is?" Boeheim asked. "I've never done that. I would never do that. To force him out, I'd have to say something or to him or do something to him, and I don't do that. ... It would be one thing if his high school coach said he's not getting enough playing time and he should go somewhere else. That's an opinion. But saying we're forcing him out just isn't true. If that was the case, we're doing the same thing to Chino (Obokoh)."
Boeheim has been known to bullshit and you always have to take everything he says during the season with a pinch of salt, but....hmmm...that also makes sense. He wants to win basketball games. End of story. Joseph just isn't playing at a level that helps SU wins basketball games, same as Chino Obokoh. Hence, despite the lack of depth there's no point in putting them on the floor right now.
And this is what I was getting at. You feel like Boeheim is burying Joseph and pushing him out the door, and yet when he explains his coldness to the sophomore it makes sense. Kaleb Joseph is simply playing basketball in the wrong era. Thirty years ago, most guys didn't see meaningful minutes until they were juniors. Now if you can't hack it by the time you're a sophomore, everyone thinks you should hit the bricks. At least that's what we assume.
In the piece by Chris Carlson, Boeheim mentions that he had a conversation with Joseph three weeks back and that Kaleb said "he wanted to stick it out." He also explained that, like so many things, a basketball season doesn't pan out the way you expect it to.
"I don't know (why it hasn't gone better)," Boeheim said. "I wish I could answer that. I had high hopes. I didn't know how Malachi Richardson would do. I thought Mike Gbinije would have to play more off the ball and that it would be Kaleb and Trevor at the guards. He's worked hard. He's tried. I wish it had gone differently."
During games, it looks like Jim Boeheim wants to punt Kaleb Joseph. Off the court, Jim Boeheim seems to be rooting for Kaleb Joseph. One does not dictate the other, and that's what makes Jim Boeheim so...Jim Boeheim.