SYRACUSE, N.Y. – After nearly 35 years on the job at Syracuse, the fire still burns brightly in coach Jim Boeheim.
At age 66, he might not tweet, though he allows his players to delve into the new media, figuring they'll learn important lessons by doing so. But he knows what's being written, tweeted, and said about his team … and periodically addresses criticism publicly.
After the No. 17 Orange rallied late to beat West Virginia, 63-52, on Monday night to snap a three-game losing streak in the Carrier Dome, Boeheim had his platform. He addressed his team's recent skid, then lit into the hometown media for what he deemed was unfair reporting, and finished by talking about the end of the home losing streak.
"I think what happens when we lose a couple or we're not playing right, people think the season's over," Boeheim said of the Orange (21-6, 8-6), who lost six of eight before beating the Mountaineers. "Sometimes, I think we need to keep perspective a little bit. When you lose a couple, you're going to lose some confidence. I don't think you can judge people, players, coaches, on little segments. When you start judging people on a little segment, I think you've really got poor journalistic grounds."
What so irked Boeheim? Apparently, a graphic in a recent edition of The Post-Standard of Syracuse. It listed his record against several coaches, including Big East rivals Jay Wright of Villanova, Pitt's Jamie Dixon, and Louisville's Rick Pitino, and a preview story for last Saturday's game at Louisville mentioned Boeheim's (now-seven-game) losing streak against Pitino.
Keep in mind, he now has 850 victories in his Hall of Fame career.
"There are some coaches that are in the Hall of Fame that I've beaten 80 percent of the time, and you're going to look at a couple of coaches that beat me," Boeheim asked. "I coached against Rick Pitino five times (when Pitino was) at Providence and once at Kentucky, and we were 6-0 against him. One of his teams went to the Final Four – we beat it three times. So you're going to put in the paper that I've lost to Rick Pitino six straight times? Why don't you put in that I beat him six straight times?"
Boeheim rolled on.
"Yeah, it's personal. When people write and say things about me, it's personal to me … always will be when people make personal attacks on me with no balance. I don't think it's ever good to take a snapshot. I don't think that's how you judge people, or coaches, or players, but that's the way it's done around here. Doesn't mean I'm going to like it. Doesn't mean I'm gonna stand here and let it go because when I let things go like that, it will be time for me to leave."
With the Orange off on Tuesday, Boeheim continued the discussion in a 22-minute radio interview. He stood his ground.
"That's the only time I have to express my feeling," said Boeheim, who allows the media access to practice and rarely fails to return phone calls from reporters. "It was about fairness. I'm covered very fairly. I've always been covered fairly, but most of my friends in the business think I'm covered unfairly. But that's OK. I have no problem with it.
"I don't want credit. I never have. I want the players to get the credit. I'll take the blame. That's what I'm paid for. Our fans? All I care about is that they watch us, come to the games, and support us. They can have any opinion they want as long as they support us."
Among active coaches, Boeheim ranks second in career victories to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (891) and shows no signs of wanting to ride off into the sunset.
"I'll be around for a while," he said. "In coaching, sometimes (the decision to retire) just happens. The day comes and that's the day. There's no formula. A lot of coaches never want to stop. They get pushed out because they're not doing the job. There's no way of knowing when that's going to be."
Syracuse plays host to Rutgers (13-12, 4-9) on Saturday.
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