Through the course of recorded history, there are a handful of variations of the quote “Clothes make the man.” The aforementioned version is the most common, attributed to Mark Twain. The first, more elegant version dates to William Shakespeare, who wrote in “Hamlet”, “For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”
Jim Boeheim, not normally known for his sartorial style, unless showing off a suit coat liner styled after the Carrier Dome floor or simply unable to be restrained by mere earthly fibers in a moment of hyper-competitive fury, may have been tipping the world to his mood based on what he was wearing.
To be sure, the wardrobe was not of the coach’s choosing. It was simply this year’s outfit for the team photo, and it was certainly just coincidence that the 2017-2018 jogging suit offered a subconscious connection to the Syracuse head coach’s mood by its color.
The lonely flares of color in the dark sea of Boeheim’s clothes were the orange block “S” and the Nike swoosh, the former traced in white over his heart.
There were, however, were several stifled flares coming from that heart to his mouth, as the second question, just 25 seconds into media day, veered from the expected territory of “how’s the team?” and drove straight into the Louisville scandal, followed by a rerouting into the issue of player compensation and endorsements, and eventually to the North Carolina, um, academic issue with the NCAA.
(To be fair to the media members asking these questions, Jim Boeheim appears in front of the media outside of postgame press conferences almost never, so if you want his opinion on an issue, you have to ask and you do it early at media day because he will not blow off your inquiry and walk out. As a result, sometimes the odd question gets thrown his way, including, to close one postgame media session a few years ago, one more fit for a city planner than a basketball coach.)
As a result, Boeheim was in mid-season grump mode for a large part of his time behind the microphone. Mid-season “lost to a team that they could have and almost certainly should have beaten, but they did not play well” grump mode. “They didn’t rebound” grump mode. “The defense was terrible” grump mode.
Nearly thirteen minutes into the event, a reporter prefaced a question with, “getting back to the team this year,” earning a nearly imperceptible smile from Boeheim. The slightest hint of the corners of his mouth turning up was present for an instant and Boeheim shifted back to what he wanted to talk about.
Normalcy was returned for a few minutes and it was not just the shift in topics to basketball. It was focused answers, Boeheim being pleased about certain aspects of his players and the work they have already put in, both during summer sessions and early fall practices. And, just shy of 16 minutes into the gathering, a quick joke.
And then, an abrupt “I don’t talk about players who aren’t here”, snipping off the back half of a question about former SU player Taurean Thompson and immediately turning to the other side of the semi-circle of reporters for the next volley.
It is all just a reminder that, no matter the attire, the man inside is the same. Complicated, but direct with his words, even sometimes stark, just like his media day attire.