I don't know Jim Boeheim at all. I mean I know him in the same way that you know him, as the follicly-challenged Syracuse coach with an absurdly hot wife who plays zone defense and once coached Carmelo to a title. That is the simple version of Jim Boeheim and from my perspective, he has never been particularly interesting or objectionable. He is a great college basketball coach housed in a city thats best asset is Dinosaur Barbque.
But after the events of the past week, I am now officially a mark for all things Boeheim. It started Monday night when Boeheim lashed out at some local media members in a way that seemed to me as an outsider, completely deserved. The coach blasted the media for an article comparing him to other Big East coaches, specifically Rick Pitino, and for criticizing his team based upon a "little segment like this" in the season. He noted that it would be much more fair to look at his entire career saying,
“There are some coaches in the Hall of Fame that I’ve beat 80 percent of the time. And you’re going to look at a couple of coaches that beat me? I’ve coached against Rick Pitino when he was at Providence five times and once at Kentucky where we were 6-0 against them. One of his teams went to the Final Four, we beat them three times. So now we’re all the sudden going to put in the paper that I’ve lost six straight to Rick Pitino? Why don’t we put that I beat him six straight? Go ahead. That’s really good. Why don’t you keep doing that? That’s really good. I appreciate that.”
When I first saw the story, I literally applauded at my desk. The lack of perspective and rush to judgment in the sports media is an egregrious error repeated daily by self-righteous sports journalists across America. Over the years, it has become my biggest pet peeve. Ignoring the role that randomness plays in small sample sizes, journalists make broad generalizations about a coach's ability based on small slices of their career and then use it to provide evidence for whatever conclusion they choose to make. It is an age-old game, and one that has only increased as sportswriters have become paradoxically both more famous and less intelligent.
So I loved when Boeheim made clear that such conclusions were not only bad journalism, but also unfair. But then when Boeheim went on a radio show and addressed the topic again, well an official man-crush began. Boeheim did a radio interview with 1620 The Score in which he said:
"I asked [the reporter a question]. You guys ask me questions all the time, that's part of my job. When you get asked a question back, you react like you do, you don't like it. But you know why? Because the media probably has the thinnest skin of any group in the world. Not in the country, in the world."
Instead of a round of applause, those comments deserve a standing ovation. While the media does a great deal of noble work and some might argue I am now a member of the group (it pains me to accept that reality), Boeheim is correct that no group is more thin-skinned. Even though their profession is built on the notion of questioning those in power, if the microscope is ever turned back upon them, the media inevitably recoil. In my early years as a lowly blogger, I felt the scorn on a daily basis of media that did not take kindly to my watchdog role. So to see Boeheim acknowledge this truth and call out a group of reporters in the process...well, bravo my friend.
Maybe in his old age, Boeheim is going to become a Charles Barkleyesque truth teller, who simply says what we all know with no fear of repercussions. Maybe he will speak other truths, such as the fact that the Big East is overrated and Rick Reilly criminally overpaid. But until then, at least he acknowledged a reality that most who worry about the power of the pen refuse to say. Far too many in sports media are insecure hypocrites who can't take the criticism they dish out.
Jim Boeheim said it, and now has a new fan.