|More people showed for Boeheim's press conference than the game|
Syracuse beat a non-disgraced former assistant coach taking down Rob Murphy's Eastern Michigan team 84-48. The game served as a long prelude to Jim Boeheim's first press conference since Bernie Fine was dismissed. The game lasted about an hour and 50 minutes, the press availability went 20 and had infinitely more drama.
Here are some thoughts on the presser first, since that was the main event, and then the game.
The Press Conference
Boeheim started out with a prepared statement, but that's not what the throngs of media from all over the country came to hear. They wanted red meat and Jim Boeheim's ability to NOT speak his mind made the event riveting. The Hall of Fame coach got through the statement and then said he wouldn't discuss the case...and then of course proceeded to discuss the case.
Clearly Boeheim was a little more nervous than I've ever seen him. He's a man who honestly doesn't care much about his image. Based on body language, press conferences are boring - a necessary evil and just part of the gig. He usually spends them leaning on a hand while working through a few questions about the 2-3 zone before calling it a wrap. So to watch him address the media hoard in an almost nervous fashion was a little surreal.
He then sparred with the national media who wanted to talk about the case, generally making the points that:
- He's a basketball coach and he's never been concerned about losing his job
- He is responsible for controlling what he can control
- We don't yet know what happened
- He respects those that are in charge and those that make decisions, such as the Chancellor of the University
- Ball boys have never traveled with the team
- He still doesn't regret defending a friend
- He's responsible for what happens under his watch
- He's never listened to the Laurie Fine tape
Overall I would have much rather preferred that he stick to the statement and then express concern for any potential victims and ask that we wait until the results of the investigation before jumping to conclusions. Then walk off. The statement was comprehensive. However, that's not Boeheim and that's not what he did.
Throughout the 20 minute press conference he did a reasonably good job of bringing the conversation back to the statement. However, he did it while smirking (most likely a nervous smile), while making jokes to try and lighten the mood, while discussing some details such as the traveling policies of ball boys and in what some may pounce on -- he didn't give any big acts of contrition. Not that he needed to, but it was clear no one would fall on a sword tonight.
To expand on that, those that may take a critical view -- and we will assuredly get national columnists that will - may try to pounce on his perceived attitude. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see a "King Boeheim thinks he's bigger than this" column from some one. It's an easy point to make. This is a national news story, not a basketball story. People who are watching don't know Jim Boeheim. They don't understand his personality. They expect someone in his position to show more empathy than he's ever going to show. Its most likely going to be an on-going issue.
Here's what I took from it. Jim Boeheim knows he didn't do anything wrong. Jim Boeheim has confidence that when the truth comes out, it will show that if there was abuse there's no way he could have known about it. That there was no cover up. He's confident in the way he acted and the way the University has acted since new information came to light. Frankly I believe him. There is no doubt in my mind Jim Boeheim had any idea what might have happened in Bernie Fine's basement late at night. That defiance - that belief in himself and that belief in the fact that things were done the right way endear him to some Syracuse fans. Of course, that same attitude can come off as arrogance depending on your perspective. And that gives fodder to others.
The Orange started slow before kicking it into gear with a 50 point second half. Here are a few quick observations:
- Rob Murphy still has the shiniest head in basketball. It was great to see him and the head glow back in the Dome.
- Speaking of which, Coach Murph must have a rule against assistants unbuttoning their coats during games, because I didn't see one open sport coat. They also might be the best dressed staff in the nation. You have to look good to coach good -- just don't don't tell that to Bob Huggins.
- After 80 minutes of zone in NYC, we saw about 37 minutes of man to man tonight. In the first half, that man to man wasn't very good. In the second half, it was.
- Early on Scoop wasn't looking for his jumper and overall the team was over-dribbling in an effort to beat EMU's 2-3 zone. They struggled to get the ball in the paint and kept getting beat off the dribble on defense.
- Every one of those issues was corrected in the second half. That's good coaching.
- James "Colt 43" Southerland was on fiyah tonight and playing extended minutes. It's pretty clear that against zone teams James will see a lot of minutes and against man to man teams, CJ Fair will play much more. It is great to have that kind of depth.
- The second half started with a Rakeem Christmas offensive rebound that really got him going. He played his best half of basketball to date. SU will need to have that third big body ready to play by the time the Big East rolls around.
- I'm not 100 percent sure but I think SU had more more missed dunks (three) than EMU had dunks (zero).
- Dion Waiters didn't score much, but he's playing excellent defense and playing it all the time. It's night and day from last year.
- JB at the podium - with his statement that didn't stand a chance: