Behind Boeheim’s blow-up

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was ejected for the first time in his 38-year coaching career for wildly and profanely protesting a key call in Saturday’s game against Duke. The call was a charge against Syracuse’s C.J. Fair with 10 seconds left. Had the call gone Syracuse’s way — a block instead of a charge — and Fair had made the ensuing free-throw, the score would have been tied. Instead, Duke was up by three points and at the line for a stream of technical foul-shots. In other words, game over.

The call against Fair was probably an incorrect one, but nothing out of the ordinary. Any good home team, not just Duke, would likely have gotten the call. Boeheim would have expected to get it at Syracuse.

Why, then, did he go berserk?

Kevin Sheehan, an excellent Washington D.C. sports talk host, believes that Boeheim was predisposed to seeing red in this game. He’s probably right.

Recall that Boeheim didn’t want Syracuse to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the first place. And realize that he has probably been regaled with stories about the way non-Carolina teams are treated by officials on Tobacco Road, especially at Duke. Boeheim’s good friend Gary Williams, the ex-Maryland coach, might well have told Boeheim a story or two.

Boeheim probably also watched the recent Maryland-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Maryland lost the game when a short-range shot by Charles Mitchell rolled off of the rim. But Maryland probably wouldn’t have needed that shot if, shortly before, the officials hadn’t awarded Duke the ball on the alternate possession rule even though it was Maryland’s turn to get possession.

Was it just a coincidence that the scorer’s table at Cameron blew such an easy, basic call? Perhaps Boeheim thought not.

Sheehan also wonders whether Boeheim blew up becVause he wanted to send the message that he doesn’t intend to sit quietly while ACC refs to stick it to his team on Tobacco Road. Boeheim’s explosion seems too instantaneous to have been pre-meditated, but the coach may have made a mental note before the game to react strongly in the event of egregious “home-cooking.”

In any case, welcome to life in the ACC.

Maryland is leaving that life behind. It will join the Big 10 next year.

I have mixed feelings about the move. I will miss the rivalries we have with Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia, which were worth the cost of being treated like a second-class citizen from time to time. However, the ACC has changed rapidly. Only half of the teams in the conference can be thought of as our traditional rivals; soon, fewer than half would have been. In this context, it is difficult to fault Maryland’s decision to “take the money and run.”

After two or three years of initiation/adjustment, I expect the Terps to get a fairer shake in the Midwest than we ever got in North Carolina. Will Boeheim and Rick Pitino, another legendary coach whose Louisville team is set to join the ACC, get a consistently fair shake in that state? Probably not at Duke as long as Coach K is there.

Here is the play and the tirade that got Boeheim tossed.


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