Boeheim out of line with comments to Katz
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 00:02
If you subscribe to the national coverage of college basketball, it’s unlikely you missed Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim maliciously deriding ESPN’s feature college basketball writer Andy Katz during a postgame press conference five days ago.
If you did, let me quickly catch you up on the situation.
After Syracuse lost 66-58 at UConn in what was its third loss in five games, (Syracuse has only lost four games all season), Katz opened the postgame interview session with a remarkably harmless question.
"Jim, what has the series with UConn meant to you and meant to Syracuse?" Katz said.
But the response from Boeheim was anything but harmless. In fact, it was extremely inflammatory, combative, unprofessional and vindictive. More simply put, in my opinion, it was flat-out embarrassing for one of Syracuse University’s most recognizable ambassadors, and thus, for the university as a whole.
"I’ll answer anyone’s question but yours," Boeheim sneeringly replied. "Because you’re an idiot and really a disloyal person. A few other things I could add, but I’m not going to go there."
Gee, Jim, I’m sure Katz really appreciates you "not going there."
Jokes aside, lets get something absolutely straight. Katz owes Boeheim absolutely nothing. Not his loyalty, not his friendship by default and certainly not his respect, after the publicly verbal assault launched by the second-winningest active coach in Division I college basketball, who was acting like anything but on that particular night.
Katz is an unbiased sports journalist with a job to do. He’s not an employee of Syracuse’s basketball and certainly not someone who should be personally accountable to Boeheim.
Now, as you can imagine, almost everyone’s initial reaction was simply trying to deduce what on earth Katz could have done to invoke such a vicious retort.
Many assumed right away it might have had something to do with the recent eligibility problems of Syracuse forward James Southerland, who was forced to sit out six games. Perhaps Katz obtained some sensitive information "off the record" and published it.
But in fact, the actual dispute stems all the way back to an interview Katz attempted to conduct with Boeheim in November of 2011.
The attempted interview came just days after ESPN reported the heinous allegations that Bernie Fine, longtime friend and assistant coach to Boeheim, had molested two former Syracuse basketball ball boys.
According to Boeheim, on that day, Katz did the absolutely unthinkable – he inquired about the possibility of the allegations.
Horrific, I know. Trying to procure more information on a sex-abuse scandal that involved children? How dare he?
I’ll be clear – I can completely understand why Boeheim would want to defend Fine. The two men have been very close friends for a very long time, and an allegation of that magnitude is nothing to scoff at. The allegation alone can cripple a person’s reputation, regardless of whether it has any merit.
Take the infamous Duke lacrosse team incident, for example. Three Duke students were wrongly tried, convicted and executed in the court of public opinion for allegedly raping a stripper who attended North Carolina Central University.
The students’ innocence was eventually proven, but not before irreparable damage had already been done to their reputations and to Duke’s.
That was about five years before the Fine allegations crept to the surface, so again, I can completely understand why Boeheim would be so utterly defensive of his friend and colleague. He knew the stakes.
But even so, he didn’t defend Fine in the right way or anything close to it, for that matter.
Katz wasn’t trying to intentionally ruin anyone’s reputation; he’s too good a journalist, and someone in Boeheim’s position should be able to acknowledge that someone doesn’t rise to Katz’ position without demonstrating a strong sense of integrity for his craft. Still, Boeheim treated Katz like he was working for a tabloid.
In all honesty, all Boeheim had to do was answer the questions honestly and truthfully, or maybe simply voice his concerns in private, instead of attempting to publicly humiliate Katz in a postgame press conference, and I’m sure this issue could have been behind him well before it became any more toxic.
But the Syracuse head coach was so put off by Katz’s attempts to get a legitimate answer on the situation two Novembers ago that he has literally ostracized Katz from directly covering his team ever since, basically preventing him from doing his job in those circumstances.
Boeheim "clarified" his comments a couple days later, attempting to explain why he said the things he did at the UConn presser, still offering no apologies.
He needs to.
Although Boeheim’s annual salary of nearly $2 million is obviously principally based on winning basketball games, he is also getting paid to answer the media’s questions, which are normally indicative of America’s queries as a whole.
It’s time for Boeheim to realize this, and to realize Katz was only trying to do his job – like any other legitimate professional would have done in that same situation – and ultimately, the longer this feud carries on, the worse it will not only reflect on himself, but also the University he’s being paid millions of dollars to positively represent.