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A Sad State of Affairs: Jim Boeheim & Politics

This author grew up in the shadow of the Carrier Dome and has defended Jim Boeheim for years.  When he was getting unexpectedly bounced from the Big Dance, this author defended him.  When Keith Smart hit that jumper, this author defended him.  After forty years of sharing Syracuse basketball together, there have been few instances of criticism.  When the Bernie Fine saga broke, it was suggested that perhaps the “all-in” strategy was risky, calling victims liars and resulting in a lawsuit against him.  So take this next criticism for what it is–a rarity.

In his report from the Olympics, Jim Boeheim strayed from the expected topics–you know, basketball, the Olympics, and Rio–to discuss American politics.  He specifically stated the following:

You don’t see the news down here. Not much, anyway. So we don’t talk a lot about Donald Trump. But I will say that it’s a sad state of affairs that he could be running for president.

He appeals to a certain radicalized part of the country that basically hates everything that’s going on, without reason. I hope, and think, that when we vote in November the American people will wake up and there will be the greatest landslide in our nation’s political history.

But like I said, we don’t talk about that stuff too much. We’re here to play eight games in 15 days and try to win a gold medal. That’s keeping us pretty busy.

Boeheim did not just express a “preference,” he came right out and criticized Donald Trump, belittled Trump’s followers, insulted those who think our country can and should be doing better, and went beyond “all-in” with respect to Hillary Clinton.

Look, Boeheim can do what he pleases.  He can stay 1,000 miles from politics.  He can ride in Hillary Clinton’s campaign bus and get a tattoo of her logo on his face.  It is his life to do what he pleases.

However, he has clearly and intentionally insulted a significant portion of his fan base and the country.  He has insulted this author.  Though this article is written from the sun belt, it is written by a Syracuse fan from birth that has lived most of his life dealing with lake effect snow and scarves.  Relative to substance, although the writer of this article seriously questions the direction of our country socially, politically, and religiously… it is with good reason and far from “without reason.”

To be sure, the fairest characterization is that both candidates are demonstrative of a “sad state of affairs.”  While Donald Trump is a poor candidate, Hillary Clinton is an equally poor candidate.  The former says some really dumb things, while the latter has done some really dumb things.  And vice-versa.  Neither inspire confidence, which makes their respective nominations all the more disconcerting if you really think about it.  Although the Justice Department punted–or perhaps even “quick kicked” when comparing the explanation with the result–on the investigation into Clinton’s emails, has there ever been a major party candidate with such a history of scandal leading up to and including an FBI investigation during the campaign?

But Jim Boeheim did not say that or anything similar.  Instead, he took a clear, specific position that just so happened to insult a portion of his fan base and the country.  And, without even getting to whether he is “right” or “wrong,” Jim Boeheim has his own history of improper statements and behavior that make him a poor spokesperson on politics or morals.  Want to investigate?  How about these “sad states of affairs” involving Syracuse basketball under Boeheim:

  • Casual Hoya lists a number of arrests involving Syracuse basketball players over Boeheim’s lengthy career.  A large number of rape allegations.
  • In 1992, Syracuse was placed on probation for two years, including a one-year post-season ban from the NCAA tournament for recruiting violations.
  • Although Boeheim called the victims’ liars, the general consensus was that there was some credibility to the accusations against Boeheim’s long-time assistant coach Bernie Fine (who was ultimately terminated by Syracuse).  Boeheim has been sued for his comments.
  • In 2015, Syracuse basketball was again sanctioned by the NCAA–fairly severely–for violations of a several-year period.

Given the sexual scandals at Syracuse involving players and assistant coaches, and given Bill Clinton’s history, perhaps Boeheim and Hillary do have something in common.

Regardless, Boeheim has criticized the NCAA for sanctioning him for not knowing what was going on within the Syracuse program academically.  Boeheim has claimed to not know what was going on inside his program relative to Bernie Fine and alleged molestation of children.  Boeheim seems to have a lot on his plate keeping him from already doing his job to the fullest.  In the meantime, there is no need for him to do a “bull in the china shop” routine in the delicate, political landscape.  (Parenthetically, what did he mean by Trump “could be” running for President?  Was this article written in early 2015?).

And do we really need entertainers using their cult of personality to influence politics?  That seems to be an even sadder state of affairs.  Americans should know who to vote for without knowing how any other famous person is voting.

For now, there is no protest or significant backlash.  Boeheim has a long history of dumb statements that will cause many of his critics to move on quickly.  Many Boeheim supporters will shrug off or rationalize these comments with the same vigor that Trump’s supporters shrug off or rationalize Trump’s ill-advised statements.  The funny thing is that, in the end, isn’t this a pot criticizing a kettle?   Another sad state of affairs.

What do you think?  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Boeheim, do you find it in poor taste for him to include that political opinion in his report from Rio?   

Updated with Poll: The College Basketball Active Coaching Mount Rushmore

Update: As you may recall, we are trying to decide the active coaching Mount Rushmore (see below or click here).  So far, we have selected Coach K, Tom Izzo, and Rick Pitino.  We need help deciding the fourth member of the group.  We have had good arguments for Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, and Roy Williams.  We will decide via the following poll.  As they say in Chicago, vote early and often… ha ha ha.  Thanks in advance.

Thanks again!

Original article:

In the past, the Confidential had some fun with Mount Rushmores for each ACC school.  We picked three spots and let fans pick the 4th spot.  Today, the focus is on college basketball as a whole–specifically, the active coaches.  It should be pretty easy to guess a few of the names, but rounding out the 4th (and eliminating the others in the process) may be difficult.  In any event, here is the list… you can vote on who gets #4.

The first spot… Coach K.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel here.  This is how we described him over a year ago:

If it needs to be explained, you haven’t been following sports since Jimmy Carter was running the country.  You want longevity?  30+ years at Duke.  You want success?  The most wins of any mens’ basketball coach ever.  You want national titles?  How about four of them for Duke in his tenure.  Throw in some gold medals and the absence of serious controversy, and you’ve got yourself one of the easiest Mount Rushmore spots ever.

This applies to active basketball coaching as well.  More recently, he is now over 1,000 wins and is back in the running for another national title.

The second spot… Tom Izzo. 

Sure, this is a bit knee-jerk.  But Izzo just took a 7-seed to the Final Four.  “Only” one national championship, but how about seven Final Fours in 20 years of coaching.  And 9 Elite Eights and 13 Sweet Sixteens.  Other than Coach K, who else has that kind of resume?

Well, maybe the next guy.  The third spot… Rick Pitino.

Pitino has two championships, one with Kentucky and one with Louisville.  Pitino also has seven Final Fours, including one with Providence.  Like Izzo, there is a sense (well-founded) that Louisville will be a better team in March than December.

The fourth spot?  The Confidential will leave this to you.  Here are some names to consider voting for the 4th spot:

  • Jim Boeheim
  • Roy Williams
  • John Calipari
  • Billy Donovan
  • Bill Self
  • Thad Matta
  • Bob Huggins
  • Anyone else?

Anyway, let us know who deserves the 4th spot and why…


The College Basketball Active Coaching Mount Rushmore

In the past, the Confidential had some fun with Mount Rushmores for each ACC school.  We picked three spots and let fans pick the 4th spot.  Today, the focus is on college basketball as a whole–specifically, the active coaches.  It should be pretty easy to guess a few of the names, but rounding out the 4th (and eliminating the others in the process) may be difficult.  In any event, here is the list… you can vote on who gets #4.

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Big Changes At Syracuse… AD out, Boeheim in 3 years

With the recent NCAA violations and penalties, the fact that changes were in store for Syracuse is NOT surprising.  And here they are.  Syracuse athletic director, Darryl Gross, is resigning (you know how this works) as athletic director.  The more surprising announcement is that Jim Boeheim will retire in 3 years.  Here is the Confidential’s quick take.

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Syracuse Orange On Trial: A 3 Game Case Study

Opening Statement: this season is rustling a few Orange fan feathers. You might describe Syracuse’s overall play somewhere between panic-inducing, gut wrenching and dare I say exciting. Jim Boeheim’s troops currently tout a 14-5 overall record and are 5-1 in ACC play. That fact bears repeating but for the sake of redundancy, I’ll let the readers make that call. For many college basketball teams that record would be a season to tell their friends about. Throw in the fact that Syracuse has just one starting senior in Rakeem Christmas (you may have heard of him) and things might start to take form. So why is it some Syracuse fans are ready to call their doctor for a refill on their anxiety medication? Could it be that we are a spoiled fan base not used to losing a game before January? Or is it the impending doom expected when the NCAA announces its ruling in the investigation of Syracuse? While each of those questions may hold validity, I suggest the answer can be found quite easily. Look no further than the last 3 games on the schedule, two of which are wins! Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you the facts in the case of why Syracuse fans that have one foot on the ledge should take a giant step back to safer ground.

Exhibit A: a game dubbed “Wake Forest: The Greek Tragedy That Almost Was”. The Demon Deacons showed up to the Dome with a 9-8 record, two losses coming by the swords of Louisville and Duke. They were well known for employing a fast paced offense and would certainly look to continue that. Syracuse meanwhile was riding a 6 game win streak. Rakeem Christmas was morphing from seedling to fully grown Navel Orange while Trevor Cooney was busy finding his 3 point shot. After the few aforementioned facts presented, for the sake of argument put yourself in a Syracuse fan frame of mind. Now sprinkle in a little math and science of the ACC conference as we know it. After a few pre-game beers, this would surely lead you explaining to your buddy why this game should be a 10 point Orange victory. But you’ve forgotten one thing. Wake Forest rolled in on their Trojan horse and deployed Konstantinos Mitoglou. His 26 point performance helped Wake push the game into overtime. Not to be outdone on his home court Rakeem Christmas put up a career high 35 points and carried Syracuse to a narrow 86-83 victory. Honorable mention to Trevor Cooney with 21 points of his own. Overtime against 1-3 ACC opponent just isn’t acceptable. Albeit thankful for a win, Syracuse fans instantly begin experiencing symptoms of slight chest pains and anxiety.

Exhibit B: Littlejohn Coliseum for a late Saturday afternoon date with the Clemson Tigers. As newcomers last season, Syracuse established who they thought the real Orange around the ACC was with a 57-44 home victory. Fast forward to January 17th 2015. Subtract Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant and you have an inexperienced Syracuse team in hostile territory. Clemson came in sporting a nice overtime win against a ranked Arkansas team earlier in the season but had losses to teams like Winthrop and Rutgers. If Syracuse fans saw this and were like myself, they might have been slightly bewildered. Despite the inexperience and a road game in the ACC, fans still expected a win. Instead, Syracuse hardly showed up. Clemson began the 1st half hotter than breakfast at a Waffle House. At the under 8 timeout, it was Clemson 21 and Rakeem Christmas 9. Halftime saw the game seemingly already won, 39-18 in favor of the Tigers. I’d bet a shot of Jameson that at this point there was a Syracuse fan watching that had already shut the game off in disgust. Clemson finished with 3 starters in double figures and shot 40% from the 3 point line. For Syracuse, the only bright spot was Rakeem Christmas again. I can’t recall a game where Trevor Cooney played worse. He went 0-5 from downtown and had just 5 points, all coming from the free throw line. Usually sound guard Michael Gbinije struggled. The Orange fell 66-53 and I sensed symptoms stemming from the Wake Forest game were being exacerbated. But a young team on the road played a poor game. They lost for the first time in ACC play. Regardless of the opponent and a few acceptable excuses for a loss, some fans had their hands on the phone ready to call to a physician.

Exhibit C: Let’s examine the most recent game against Boston College. The Golden Eagles entered the Dome at 8-8, without a single ACC Conference win. That fact might have had a few fans and perhaps players alike looking past BC. However, flashback to last year when this BC team came in and unraveled Syracuse’s historic 25-0 start (I still blame the jerseys that were worn that night). Back to present time with many of its players returning, BC came in with something to prove. They could knock off a quality opponent on the road for its first conference win. A recipe for disaster can be seen fairly easily. Meanwhile, Syracuse was looking to avoid a second two game losing streak of its season. There was no way Syracuse could lose. Right? Despite a hot BC start, Syracuse took a 35-17 lead into half. Lacking some depth down low due to a Chris McCollough injury, the team had to avoid foul trouble. In true Murphys Law fashion that I believe is contagious to Syracuse, Rakeem Christmas picked up 4 fouls by the 16 minute mark in the 2nd half. Forced to play without him for most of the 2nd half, Michael Gbinije stepped up big time and ultimately saved the Orange a second straight humiliation. The game ended 69-61 but the score fool wasn’t fooling anybody that watched. Syracuse came gut-wrenchingly close to blowing a late 13 point lead with anything but clutch FT shooting and a couple late turnovers. Fans watched what should have been a blowout turn into a close victory against a team without a conference win. And therein lies precisely my point. The team found a way to overcome adversity and win. It got help from a mostly reliable guard in Michael Gbinije. The score doesn’t matter when a team wins. Sports are beautiful like that. But it was too late for some. The calls were being made and prescriptions were being ordered. Diagnosis: Syracuse induced panic, anxiety and insomnia.

Closing argument: we see reasons why there is panic among the fan base. All of which can be argued as valid concerns. The team struggled to close out a couple sub par ACC opponents. While there are the almost automatic double-doubles coming from Rakeem Christmas, players like Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson are grasping for consistent performances in the last 3 games. Late game free throw shooting and carelessness are rearing their ugly heads. But aside from the struggle to find a consistent good team performance, the fact remains that Syracuse has won two of its last three. How some fans can still be pressing the panic button is slightly maddening to me. Most likely it’s the ACC schedule that lies before us but as we’ve seen with games like NC State beating Duke, there are never any cupcakes in the ACC. I believe Syracuse fans need to slow down and look at the facts. The team has 14 wins and is 5-1 in conference play. They’re dealing with the loss of a starting freshman that before injury was a probable one and done and still winning without him. But most importantly, it’s time to remind themselves that no matter how ugly, a win is still a win. To quote BC head coach Jim Christian, “they’re 5-1, guys. I wish I was struggling like that.”

The ACC Basketball Coaching Tree: Two Polls!

The ACC basketball coaching community is growing in talent with the addition of Buzz Williams.  There are historical greats with national championships: Coach K, Boeheim, Pitino, and Roy Williams.  There is the next tier of Bennett, Larranaga, Brey, Buzz Williams, Hamilton, Gottfried, and Dixon, all of whom are awaiting their first national championship as a coach.  And all Mark Gottfried has done is go to three straight Big Dances at North Carolina State.

Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory is from the Tom Izzo line, and had great success at Dayton, but has not done much yet for the Yellow Jackets.  Brad Brownell is also doing good things at Clemson.  Boston College and Wake Forest are set to announce new moves soon enough and, in the mean time, remain unknowns.  Still, that is a very proven set of 11 coaches.

You could have an interesting debate ranking the historical greats, 1-2-3-4, based on their all-time cumulative performance.  So let’s do a poll!  Look, Coach K is going to be most people’s #1 all-time, so half of the options have him at #1.  Try not to be a homer.

But here is another great question… you have an elimination game to win and get to pick one coach at his current level of performance–who would YOU take?   Again, try not to be a homer.  And let everyone know why you picked who you picked.

Comments encouraged!

Those Darn Refs

30+ years ago, George Brett takes issue with a call by an official.

This author has been following sports for about 40 years now.  The officials have always been a subject of controversy in sports.  Here is one opinion on the 10 worst calls in officiating.  Few are recent.  Most of these go back to an era before instant replay, before sports blogs, and before Twitter.  Now, as noted by Pat Forde (who this author does not generally agree with): “Twitter, message boards and call-in shows are veritable forest fires of ref-bashing both during and after games.”  This is true.  If you follow Twitter feeds for two fan bases during a game, you would come to a conclusion that the refs of <insert league> are incompetent and biased in favor of <insert opponent>.  Nobody loses anymore, they lose to the opponent and a bunch of bribed, incompetent, script-following officials.  Obviously, this is not true.  But respected and successful blogger Sean Keeley (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician) tweeted a good point:

Re: coaches not respecting referees. Referees should be treated like coaches then and have to face media after games. Level the field.

One of the things that is frustrating is that coaches have to answer to the media after a loss.  This can involve judgment calls–why did you call that timeout, why did you not call that timeout, why not play a backup, etc.  In general, officials do not.  And when Jim Joyce cost the Detroit Tigers’ Andres Gallaraga a no-hitter, his tearful admission of error and apology was, somehow, comforting enough to make it a non-issue.  Human beings, for all their faults, are able to forgive someone who admits an error and is sincerely contrite.  Are we at a point where there is so much media (formal and social) that officials should want to be in front of the media for their own sake?

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Syracuse Orange: Team of Destiny?

With the Syracuse Orange having recently ascended to their third #1 ranking in five years, a lot of the talk has been if Jim Boeheim’s squad is the team to beat.  The notion has been phrased different ways; “the national title Syracuse’s to lose”, “The title is there for the taking”, but all boil down to the idea that Syracuse is really, really good and deserve their share of time at #1.  The fact that Syracuse’s selection was the first unanimous one since  Duke in the 2010-11 season lends weight to that argument and, of course, a 23-0 record doesn’t hurt either.

Yet, looking back at that Orange this season, another phrase comes to mind when I think of this particular squad: a team of destiny.

Now, what do I mean when I say that?  Do I mean that I literally believe some cosmic entity has preordained the Orange to win a national title? Well…no, of course not.  What I mean is that whatever it’s taken for Syracuse to win, that’s exactly what has happened.

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The ACC’s New World Order

Earlier this year, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim answered a question about how it felt to be a part of what might be the best basketball conference in history.  To which he replied, “We already were.”  Referring, of course, to the Big East in its former configuration.

Now this correspondent is an old-school ACC guy, so naturally I bristled a little.  As did many of us.

And the thought crossed my mind, “wait until he gets into the conference schedule for real…”

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The ACC School Mount Rushmores: Syracuse Final

Well, this was certainly a tough one.  Frankly, narrowing it down to four Syracuse icons is very difficult.  Too many deserving folks get left off.  Based on the comments, and upon further review, it has to come down to Ben Schwartzwalder and Ernie Davis.  For all the lacrosse accomplishments, lacrosse remains a non-revenue sport.  Although many basketball players made contributions, only a few won a national title–Anthony, McNamara, and Warrick.  Does it get won without either of the three?

Still, Ben Schwartzwalder created Syracuse football.  And Ernie Davis won a Heisman Trophy–the only Syracuse player to do so and the first African-American to ever do so.  While Ernie Davis is a hero, it is difficult to choose a player over a legendary coach.  This is especially true when the coach brought the player to campus.  Without Schwartzwalder, perhaps Davis goes elsewhere.  And maybe Davis ends up a linebacker.  Who knows?

The Ernie Davis story deserved to be a movie, but we’ll have to go with the hero here: Ben Schwartzwalder.  He was a military hero, receiving a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, four battle stars, a Presidential Unit Citation and his actions during the Normandy invasion led to a promotion to major.  He coached Syracuse for 24 years, winning 178 games and a national title in 1959.  He brought Jim Brown, Davis, John Mackey, Floyd Little, and Larry Csonka to Syracuse.

Upon further review, however, it is impossible to keep Ernie Davis off the Syracuse Mount Rushmore.  For all that Dave Bing accomplished on and off the court, there is a clear lack of notoriety.  Part of that is because Dave Bing is a very classy individual.  But Bing did not win an award equivalent to a Heisman Trophy.  Bing is certainly a top 5, but we are going to switch things up and give Davis the spot previously reserved for Bing.  Mea culpa.

The final Syracuse Mount Rushmore: Jim Boeheim, Jim Brown, Ben Schwartzwalder, and Ernie Davis.

The original article…

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