Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim has been making headlines in recent weeks over, what else, comments that he’s made. The ornery curmudgeon who has led the Orange basketball program since 1976 had built a long-standing reputation for speaking his mind, especially when it comes to reporters with who he disagrees. Sometimes it leads to a classic moment, like the “Ten Fucking Games” rant and sometimes it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
It was pretty much the latter a few weeks ago when Boeheim criticized former Duke player Jalen Johnson, saying the team was better off without him. That received some sharp pushback from many members of the college basketball media and Boeheim eventually sidestepped the conversation by admitting he hadn’t actually watched Johnson play this year.
If Richmond and Edwards had played the minutes they have deserved, Syracuse is probably somewhere around 17-5 overall this season and in the Big Dance. What a difference they provide.
— Matthew Gutierrez (@MatthewGut21) March 2, 2021
Boeheim was back in the comment spotlight this past week when, following the team’s big win over Clemson to stay alive for a shot at the NCAA Tournament, the head coach took a shot at The Athletic’s Matthew Gutierrez over a tweet in which he said that Syracuse would have a much better record if reserves Jesse Edwards and Kadary Richmond had played more. After answering an unrelated question during the virtual post-game presser, Boeheim took his shot:
“If I’d played Jesse and Kadary, we’d probably be 22-2 now…I just didn’t see that. Couldn’t figure it out by myself after 45 years. I need a reporter to figure that out … who has never played basketball and is 5-foot-2.”
While some enjoyed seeing “classic” Boeheim pushing back against a narrative he didn’t agree with, others felt the remarks went a bit too far and didn’t need to be so personal. That Boeheim waited until he had a captive audience following a big win (and the momentum that comes with it) felt like a bit of a bully move, though not one he hasn’t done plenty of times before. Especially when, according to Gutierrez, the two had already discussed the comments and were “all good on this.”
Boeheim says via Zoom that I have never played basketball before and I am 5-foot-2, so I am not qualified to have an opinion on Syracuse.
— Matthew Gutierrez (@MatthewGut21) March 4, 2021
In the annals of Boeheim critiques, it was a fairly banal one. And plenty of reporters have said they know what they’re getting into when they attend a Boeheim presser. But many Syracuse fans are known to be fiercely loyal to Boeheim and will back his sentiments in the eyes of any disagreement, even if he might be off-base. Just ask Andy Katz, who was the recipient of one of the most withering Boeheim press conference belittlings back in 2013.
Boeheim snapped at Katz in the infamous presser, seemingly out of nowhere, calling him an “idiot” and “disloyal.” In the years since the two have patched things up. But on a recent appearance on the Titus & Tate program, Katz needed to remind Syracuse fans that he is no longer considered the disloyal idiot worthy of their scorn.
"The war between us ended years ago, yet I'll still get these emails as if these Syracuse fans were under a snowbank in upstate New York!"@TheAndyKatz tells @clubtrillion and @tatefrazier his side of the time he was singled out by Jim Boeheim in a press conference pic.twitter.com/YWmOLaP58P
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 5, 2021
“First of all, [Boeheim and I] have since repaired that, many years past. There were some Syracuse fans…you know how you get those stories how, like, there were people from World War II on an island out in the South Pacific who didn’t know the war ended? There were some Syracuse fans that…the war between us ended years ago! Yet I’ll still get these emails as if these Syracuse fans were under a snowbank in Upstate New York and had never read anything on the internet, okay, because they think it’s still going on…it’s over! There’s peace.”
“Just so you know, the detente…was achieved in the bowels of the Verizon Center the year Syracuse went to the Final Four, if I’m not mistaken, maybe 2013…is when we made peace.”
Katz’s advice to other reporters who find themselves in Boeheim’s sights (or any coach who calls them out during a presser)? Just let them get it all out and move on.
“Best thing is…let it lie. Let the person vent. No need to throw your stats out.”
A good thing to remember for whichever reporter has to hear about it from Boeheim next time, and we all know there will be a next time.