Jim Boeheim (Credit: Daily Orange)

Monday night, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team fell to the No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers 67-62 in a close contest in the JMA Wireless Dome. They did so without the help of starting forward Benny Williams, who didn’t play or attend the game. Naturally, this was noticed by just about everyone in the building, so it wasn’t surprising that the first question head coach Jim Boeheim received at his post-game press conference was about Williams’ status.

However, when SU student Sam Corcoran of CitrusTV asked Boeheim about the whereabouts of one of his top players, the cantankerous longtime coach immediately moved into bully mode.

“Is that your question?” Boeheim snapped. “That’s the most important question you have? Is that your most important question?

Boeheim then insulted the reporter’s “attitude” before answering.

“Benny took a personal day, he will be back at practice on Wednesday,” Boeheim said before concluding. “That’s it? We have that question, that’s all we have? Typical in Syracuse.”

Boeheim is certainly no stranger to press conference showdowns and battles, but the appreciation that many Syracuse fans have had over the years for the 78-year-old’s demeanor has worn thin as the program has settled into a stretch of mediocrity. While the head coach might have gotten a lot of “that’s just Jim being Jim” support in the past, his treatment of a student reporter was met with derision, annoyance, and disgust from many in the media, some of whom held a similar role to Corcoran when they attended SU.

It’s also worth noting that Boeheim’s jab at Corcoran over a reasonable question came just a week after he walked out on a press conference rather than answer a question from a different student reporter about his team’s inability to close out games.

While Boeheim will tell you that he doesn’t care about media attention, he always seems to be keenly aware when something he’s said or done requires a response. And so, the Syracuse coach stopped by Orange Nation with Steve Infanti and Paulie Scibilia on ESPN Syracuse Thursday to offer his side of the story.

“When I got the question, I didn’t even really understand it, cause, you know, I wasn’t gonna expand on it,” said Boeheim. “But then I realized as he continued that they didn’t know that. So I answered the question. It wasn’t a hard question. It was actually a very simple question. And I certainly didn’t bully anybody. The reporter made a little face and I commented on it. I certainly didn’t bully anybody. That’s a fabrication to call that bullying. That didn’t happen.

“But I’m always more or less testy when we lose. We don’t lose four-in-a-row anyway too often. So it bothered me and then we moved on and answered all the questions.”

It’s a pretty classic Boeheim response to the situation. First, he tweaks reality in his favor (he very clearly understood the question when it was asked). Second, he takes a not-too-subtle shot at the question itself. Third, he makes it fundamentally clear he did nothing wrong and you are wrong if you think otherwise. Four, he forgets that he was trying to imply he didn’t hear the question and admits “it bothered me.”

You can certainly say that reporters have gotten far worse treatment at press conference, including from Jim Boeheim himself, but the reaction to this one in particular says more about the bigger picture when it comes to Boeheim and the state of the Syracuse men’s basketball program. While he’s a fairly disliked figure outside of Central New York, he remains a complicated hero for Orange fans willing to defend him so long as the program keeps humming. Unfortunately for him, that hum is fading and his antics don’t feel worth defending anymore, especially as his will-he-or-won’t-he retirement drama drags on longer than most coaching careers.

Plus, you know, a 78-year-old in a position of power can choose NOT to be a dick to a student reporter, too.

[Cuse Talk Sports/ESPN Syracuse, Image Credit: Daily Orange]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.