College basketball once again watched Jim Boeheim turn into a wizard, guiding an 11-seed to the Sweet 16 and leaving perplexed, vanquished foes in Raleigh, San Diego and Morgantown. Houston was finally able to shoot down the 2-3 zone, helped largely by its own defense, which smothered and covered the Orange like a biscuit at a Pearland Waffle House.
After the game, Jim could have waxed poetic about a wonderful ride alongside his son. There were plenty of warm and fuzzy things said about Buddy’s explosion in March. Videos of him as a young tyke running around the locker room with Carmelo Anthony 18 years ago seemed too wild to even comprehend.
Instead of basking in the glow of yet another unexpectedly fun postseason run, Jim seemed at his most brusque this year. A few weeks ago he went after a reporter for his height. After the loss to Houston he was asked about taking out Jesse Edwards, and didn’t enjoy that. Then he fielded a question about criticism of his program. Obviously after your season ends in a horrific offensive morass, it’s easy to get agitated. But it sure didn’t seem like Boeheim had enjoyed another Sweet 16.
“I don’t hear it because they’re from people who are inconsequential. And I’m sure you go to Syracuse right, you know what that means. They don’t matter. All the stuff on the internet. Not one sentence on the internet, matters, not one.”
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but I don’t, I don’t listen to them. My father taught me a long time ago: You got to do what you think is right and that’s it. And you don’t listen. Everybody has an opinion about what we should do or shouldn’t do or that we should be better or not. And maybe the next coach will be better. That’s great, I’d be happy to see that. But I do not worry about what anyone says in Syracuse. I learned a long time ago, my guidance counselor in eighth grade told me, ‘Jim, you’re not going to please everybody.’ He must have known I was going to be a coach.”
Everyone in Syracuse was cranky Saturday night, and being asked about criticism is not designed to get a lovely sonnet from the coach. But Boeheim has seemed more frustrated than ever this year. Is that a sign of a man who has finally gotten to the end of his rope, and doesn’t want to do this much longer? Or just par for the course for someone that has enjoyed sparring with critics for 45 years? Maybe both. That fight and edge proves he’s still Jim Boeheim (so does the run to another Sweet 16). But it also suggests he’s not exactly gaining patience with age.
Boeheim is one of the most complex characters in college basketball history. His Final Fours, NBA lottery picks, and national championship make his resume unassailable. It would be great to see him enjoy all of this towards the end. What’s the use in slamming reporters and body-checking internet opinions when the last month has been so fun? Here’s hoping he sees this season more for its enjoyment than its annoyances, and finds some peace as he puts the finishing touches on an amazing career.