Orange Watch: The never-ending saga of questioning Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

Jim Boeheim
18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey hosted a Sports Leadership Seminar with Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University men’s basketball head coach at the Pentagon, May 7, 2014. DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp

Item: Anyone who’s covered or followed Syracuse basketball knows this is a basic rule of thumb; if you’ve never played or coached at the highest levels (or sometimes even if you have), it’s pointless to interrogate or make a public comment about how the Orange’s Hall of Fame coach leads his team. Like it or not, it’s simply going to strike a raw nerve with Boeheim and lead to a cantankerous exchange.

We always shake our head when we hear Jim Boeheim chew out a media member about why he did what he did in a specific game, or how he handled coaching a specific player.

Right or wrong, it’s a no-win situation.

Once upon a time as an inexperienced student reporter, and even early in our professional career, we learned the hard way leading to blushing at a press conference or two in front of fellow media and other onlookers.

Back in the day, we co-hosted Coach Boeheim’s weekly radio show for several years. Being locked together in a studio, having down time to chat during commercial breaks, it became clear that the coach owned the floor and it was best to let him provide his own thoughts exactly how he wanted to present them to an audience.

The latest example of Boeheim’s unpleasantness came following Wednesday night’s impressive SU win over Clemson. A reporter who covers the team on a regular basis tweeted his opinion Monday that the Orange would have a better record, and be locked in for the NCAA Tournament, if bench players Kadary Richmond and Jesse Edwards saw more playing time this season.

It may be a factual statement, and it may be an opinion shared by the majority of Orange Nation, but it’s simply going to lead to the same result, an insult from the coach to the person making the inquiry.

“I think it’s hard to go 9-7 in this league, I think these guys have done a great job this year,” Boeheim said while assessing his team’s NCAA chances with a 15-8 overall record, including a 13-1 mark (only loss to Pittsburgh) at home.

“BUT… (and here comes the sarcasm to the original tweet) if I played Jesse and Kadary we’d probably be 22-2 now. I just didn’t see that. I couldn’t figure that out by myself after 45 years. I need a reporter to figure that out who’s never played basketball and is 5-foot-2.”

Once upon a time that would be the end of it. An awkward moment with some head turning among the questioners, now replaced in the social media age by turning the exchange into a national story and a virtual roll of eyes among those logged into the Zoom postgame session.

“Did you hear what Boeheim said to a reporter after the Clemson game when his coaching was questioned on Twitter?”

» Related: Syracuse keeps postseason hopes alive with win over Clemson

Some four hours after the victory the story of Boeheim’s slight and attack of credibility appeared on ESPN’s website, and following a simple search Thursday, the story, in one form or another, showed up on at least eight other websites.

In the world of 24-hour news cycles, this will be an old story by the time Syracuse plays a game next week in the ACC Tournament. Until then, it’s a simple reminder that challenging the coach’s strategic decisions leads to nothing more than creating a lot of social media chatter, a meaty subject to dissect among fans on message board, and some embarrassment.

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About Brad Bierman 766 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.