Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim Deserves Blame for Orange’s Late-Season Flop

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Jim Boeheim has perfected the art of dismissing accountability.

Don’t ever expect to hear the Hall of Fame blame distributor slip the phrase “that’s on me.” Lest he breach his loyalty oath to his team, more specifically to his own fat ego, Boeheim is disposed to pointing the finger elsewhere. Appropriateness be damned, anyone is a candidate to become Sergeant Boeheim’s scapegoat du jour.

Central New York sports reporters are familiar with the act. The Syracuse hoops tyrant would rather chide a beat writer from the bully pulpit of his postgame press conference than discuss specific team trends, like why Syracuse is the only Division-1 program to shoot worse than 70-percent from the free throw line in each of the last 13 seasons. If only Mr. B was as critical of his own team as he is of the people who cover it.

Mar 9, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim looks on during the first half against the Georgetown Hoyas at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, Jim, the buck stops with you this time. Quit playing hot potato.

One season removed from the finest coaching job of his career, Boeheim has back-flipped into the conversation for Big East coaching flop of the year. Surely, if Boeheim is to take credit for last year’s program-best season – and he should – he must also bear blame for this unsightly mess.

Player development, the chief responsibility of a head coach, has equated to player retardation at Syracuse this season.

Rakeem Christmas, once the second-ranked center in his high school class, is the same player today he was in his first game as a freshman. So too is James Southerland, a “Jack-em-up” Joe who hasn’t developed any other element to his game – defense, handle, court awareness, whatever – in his four years on the hill. The one-tricky pony isn’t even reliable with his one trick anymore.

Short of the underused Jerami Grant, the rookies have looked like deer caught in headlights. Red-shirt freshman Trevor Cooney hasn’t gotten off the mat while prized local product DaJuan Coleman can’t get off the bench. Only Grant of the first-year players has shown signs of a bright future. Of course, just as Jerami began breaking out – fresh off a career-high scoring performance against Notre Dame and brother Jerian – Boeheim slashed his minutes in favor of the erratic Southerland, who had returned from a lengthy suspension at the worst time.

Pat yourself on the back for committing rotation arson, coach.

Sophomore turnover king Michael Carter-Williams has visibly regressed in Big East play. A D-League talent playing under the guise of lottery hype, Carter-Williams has become the poster child for the jump-pass giveaway. He even moonlights as the league’s best bricklayer. The second-year point guard is shooting a whopping 28-percent from behind the arc this season, yet his boss curiously insists he keep shooting.

Brandon Triche, the SU golden child whom Boeheim entrusted with the keys to a championship car, never evolved into the player he had the physical tools to become. After starting at point guard on a top-ranked Syracuse team as a freshman and again as a junior, Triche, the nephew of Howard, failed to justify the preferential treatment he received since his arrival on campus.  Confidence issues played a major role in the unraveling of the senior’s career – his first season was arguably his best – and what better way to stoke those insecurities than by artificially inflating the player’s reputation (thanks, Jim).

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Tags: Basketball Syracuse Orange

  • Craig Sherman

    Wow, if I’ve ever seen a blogger with an axe to grind, it’s Evan Williams.

    • Craig Sherman

      Let me clarify my comment. While you do raise many fair points in terms of the teams play, my issue is with your attack of the coach. It’s clear to me that you do have an axe to grind, and while the buck does stop here (with the coach) you don’t become a bad coach one year and a hall of fame coach the next. The Boeheim bashing went out of style in the 80′s along with the scheduling argument that has long since been disproven, and while it is fair to call out the coach at times, you appear to have an agenda. When the team was 16-1 and ranked #3 (undeservedly so IMO), people were saying that Boeheim was the reason because the team simply does not have that much talent. Now that their overall record is 23-8, Boeheim can’t coach. Which is it?

      • BustingBrackets

        Whoever said this team doesn’t have talent? A future lottery pick at point guard, the #2 center in one recruiting class (Rakeem Christmas) and a second 5-star center in another (Coleman). Cooney was arguably the top shooter in his class. Grant was a Jordan Classic participant. In all, Syracuse sports three McDonald’s All-Americans plus a Jordan All-American. Georgetown and Marquette (co-league champs) don’t have half that.

        There’s an illusion SU doesn’t have college-ready talent, only because Jim Boeheim never developed all the great HS players he himself recruited. The one guy that’s measurably improved at Syracuse (CJ Fair) was the lowest rated recruit on the team short of Baye Keita.

        Boeheim certainly hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt as far as player development, especially in the post. His track record of producing quality NBA players over the last decade leaves much to be desired. The burden is on him to change that reputation for the better, as is it once was in the pre-2000 days.

        And to be clear, this story is not railing on his coaching legacy. Merely what he’s done [failed to do] with this specific team. He did a remarkable job with last year’s squad, as the the article mentions.

        • Craig Sherman

          Please, you’re so wrong it hurts. Who said that SU wasn’t that good? How about their Head Coach? Did you do any research for this blog post, or are you simply venting for some unknown reason?

          Lets look at your points. MCW may indeed be a lottery pick this year, but that is more because of the fact that this draft will be one of the weakest in recent memory. Coleman is a center. Anyone who knows anything about college basketball understands that almost every frosh center is a work in progress – look at Noel at UK. Plus, he’s spent a month recovering from surgery! You really want to blame JB for that? And are you really going to base your argument on McDonald’s All Americans? Really? Okay, while Christmas is shooting 56% this year, and has 63 blocked shots, he has almost no offensive presence in the post, but he will continue to develop, and will be a great player (in my opinion), yet he is still very raw. You clearly expected him to be great immediately since he was a MCD All American. Did you expected him to lead the team in scoring?

          What really is funny is that you use such a small window of teams to support your argument/agenda. Why is that? Why not talk about, oh, lets say two players that no Division 1 college coach wanted? Why don’t you mention Sherman Douglas, or Rony Seikaly? Two players JB developed into NBA players. Those are two that immediately come to mind, but there are many other players that were not heavily recruited coming out of high school that JB turned into stars in college. I know why you don’t mention them. Because using them as examples would completely discredit your entire argument. In other words, you’ve been exposed as someone that has an axe to grind or some sort of agenda/vendetta against JB. I’m guessing he called you out when you were a Daily Orange reporter, and you’ve never been able to forget it. Let it go, Evan. The truth will set you free.

          • BustingBrackets

            You tell me, Craig. Who said that SU wasn’t that good? Those words are yours and yours only.

            Worthy or not, MCW is a lottery pick. Period. That this is weak draft is utterly irrelevant, as we are only evaluating MCW relative to THIS YEAR’S competition, not any other year. Not a difficult concept to grasp. The kid was a popular Big East POY frontrunner rolling into conference play and has NBA scouts salivating over his physical tools. That was until MCW steadily regressed over the latter half of the season. Exonerate the coach at your own volition. I’m not doing that. Would be hypocritical considering how much praise Boeheim was showered with last year.

            Can’t really think of a worse example to cite than Nerlens Noel (and ironically you choose the guy who shunned Syracuse). Noel was having an historically great defensive season. He was on pace (pre-injury) to break Kentucky program records (including those held by Anthony Davis) as well as setting NCAA milestones. How out of touch one must be to reference a player who is a sure-fire Top 5 draft pick even AFTER a devastating ACL injury.

            Isaiah Austin at Baylor has been spectacular. Kaleb Tarczewski at Arizona has markedly improved over the course of the season, as has Cameron Ridley at Texas (a carbon copy of Coleman). Of the top-shelf centers in the 2012 class, none, not even Steven Adams at Pitt, has stalled — better yet failed to ever get going at all — than DaJuan Coleman.

            Halfway through his college career and Rakeem Christmas hasn’t improved a jot on offense, yet you’re sure he’ll “continue” to develop? That would imply he’s already begun developing. Wrong. Christmas was second only to Andre Drummond among class of 2011 centers, yet pivots around the country are lapping him on the development trail. Rak has elite athleticism and great size, yet Boeheim’s offense (and whatever isn’t getting through in practice) has retarded his growth. Again, if you want to deflect attention from the head man and turn a blind eye to the common thread underlying why every SU player minus one hasn’t improved, that’s on you.

            By no means is the last 15 or so years (nearly half of his head coaching career on the hill) a “small window.” Boeheim’s repository of quality NBA players has dried up since the late 90s. Harkening back to the 80s doesn’t aid your position in the least. Stop living in the distant past.

            The rest of your flimsy argument is littered with straw men, gross hyperbole, empty speculation and ad hominems. Won’t waste any more time touching any of that tripe. It’s evident you’ve been sucked in as a lemming for Boeheim’s propaganda. Unfortunately, your position belies rational thought.

          • Craig Sherman

            Wow, you’ve learned some big words since your blog post. Interesting. Curious – did it take 2 hours for you to research those and your other new examples? You are not only in the extreme minority in your views, your anger and bitterness is beginning to show. You are a fraud my friend, and as a Syracuse graduate, I am embarrassed for you. Keep on blogging!

          • BustingBrackets

            Extreme minority? And your singular, invalidated opinion constitutes as the extreme majority? Nice. Just when I thought you had run out of unsubstantiated talking points.

            Thanks for the laugh.

          • Craig Sherman

            Coming from the boy who said he “…won’t waste any more time….” You just keep on digging that hole, don’t you, Andrew? Tell me, did you graduate recently? Based on your apparent maturity – or lack thereof – you seem to be quite young. Didn’t you learn to develop thicker skin while working at the D.O. or WAER? Or did Jim Boeheim humiliating you crush that?

  • Bravo

    Boeheim said it when Syracuse was 18-1 starting this season off, we are not that good. He likes to start the season having his team play cream-puff teams in the comfort of the Dome to build up the confidence and continuity prior to the always challenging season. What I have seen in the past through non-conference to conference play is a gradual build up to full potential into the post season. This season however it has been the opposite. Boeheim is partially to blame I agree. There I times were I felt he should have changed to man-to-man just to give a different look and hope that it would spark better offense but aside from putting on some gear and hitting the floor himself, there isn’t much he can do when the players aren’t playing. The onus always weighs on the players,…there are only so many substitutions and plays you can run, ultimately the players need to execute and right now no one is executing,…not one player!

    Triche has something going on he isn’t telling anyone,…he resembles a zombie at times on the court. His shots, when he takes them, are lucky if they come close to the backboard. There have been asteroids that have come closer to backboards then his shots. Really, the entire team is really sucking right now. I have never seen the ‘Cuse play so badly, and I watch all the games.

    All in all, the buck stops with the coach,…Boeheim needs to start executing plans B, C and D,…his problem is that he sticks with what he knows has worked in the past. He is stubborn that way. If you have 35 20 win seasons out of 37, you tend to stick to what seems to be working. That is why Boeheim is stubborn. He plays to what he knows and right now, I don’t think he knows what is going on with the team.

  • Maureen Quinn Ward

    Evan Williams did NOT do his “homework” with this as thoroughly as he should have to say, “Don’t ever expect to hear the Hall of Fame blame distributor slip the phrase “that’s on me.” ‘ If he did he would have heard in the press conference video found on that Jim Boeheim said, “… the two disappointments I have in this game was our offense was not good and that’s my fault and we wanted to play the guards and we didn’t, we did not get that message across …”. If anything you lose all credibility when you stand in judgement without all the facts and also jump to the conclusion that voicing his opinion about the press means he is “… dismissing accountability.” This does not encourage me to read anything by him in the future.