Ah, the joys of the 2007-2008 Syracuse basketball team. The season that gave us Paul Harris’ backcourt blunder and the infamous Dont’e Greene experience is the gift that keeps on giving. That NIT super season is just part of the story in a section of Grantland’s NCAA power rankings that went up today. According to former Ohio State walk-on and current Grantland writer Mark Titus, “the Orange are the best team in the country to join as a walk-on.” His logic? Jim Boheim simply could care less what his players do anymore.
… from what I can tell, Jim Boeheim is way past caring what his players do. This is anecdotal evidence, but when I was at Ohio State, we played Syracuse in Madison Square Garden in the preseason NIT one year. Both teams stayed at the same hotel in Times Square. After getting done with film around 10 p.m. the night before the game, Coach Matta said he wanted us all to go straight up to bed. My walk-on roommate and I laughed at this suggestion and instead left to explore the city since we didn’t need to get rest just to sit on the bench the next day. Anyway, as the clock neared midnight and we walked back to the hotel, we spotted a group of Syracuse players (some of whom were starters) out on the town. What they were up to I don’t know, but I do know that there are very few college basketball coaches who would be cool with their starters walking around Times Square at midnight the night before a game. If Boeheim lets this slide with his scholarship players, you can only assume how little he cares what his walk-ons do.
While that’s a lot to digest, I found a number of things about this paragraph interesting. For starters, this is a first-hand account from Titus and I have no idea if he’s exaggerating for effect or not. I’m a big fan of his writing, and I will say that in his past stuff he seems to be a pretty straight-shooter. This doesn’t sound like a far-fetched tall tale.
More importantly, I went back and looked at the game he’s referring to for fun. It happened November 21st, 2007 and was Syracuse’s first loss of the year.
I actually vividly remember watching this as a freshman at Ithaca in the campus center. Our starters this game? Dont’e Greene, Jonny Flynn, Arinze Onuaku, Paul Harris, and the one and only Eric Devendorf. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it isn’t the biggest stretch to imagine a few of these guys in Times Square the at midnight before a game. The result from this game? A 79-65 Syracuse loss. Dont’e and Devo shot a combined 14 for 35 as the Orange turned the ball over 16 times.
While I considered making a joke about how they were probably tired from the night before, that’s kind of the percentages those guys shot in most of the games that season. Of course, this was also the season in which we missed the NCAA tournament and lost to UMass twice. That year was the best. The bigger point to me however, is the fact that this comes on the heals of Michael-Carter-Williams’ Lord & Taylor fiasco. This is either funny or concerning to you (Personally, I’m leaning towards concerning).
It doesn’t make me feel much better that the game Titus is referring to happened in five years ago. Since then, we’ve had multiple issues with players off-the-court including but not limited to: alleged sexual assault, a stolen student ID card, alleged assault of a female, alleged criminal mischief, the strange drug test story that SU allegedly reported in 2010, and now MCW. Again, there were never any truly serious charges/findings to come from these incidents, but we’re not exactly the squeakiest-clean program off the court.
While Titus’ article is obviously written to be humorous, it’s a little curious that he can resort back to a personal story from 5 years ago pointing to the fact that Boeheim isn’t really concerned with what his players do in their free time. We found out from Andy Katz last season that Boeheim doesn’t micro-manage the program, from his assistants down to his players. The last few years, if anything, have seemed to hammer this point home.
While the Boeheim nugget is a small part of an article that was mostly written in jest, our players’ off court issues over the past five years are no joke. There’s no definitive way to prove a direct correlation between JB’s discipline tactics and unsupervised actions of his players. Nevertheless, it does sorta make you wonder if the whole “Boeheim is past caring what his players do” thing has some truth to it.
This article has been updated