Colgate Game Provides Escape Before Allegation Talk Resurfaces
Saturday’s game won’t be remembered nearly for the play on the court than it will be for the press conference that followed. Fortunately, the tension surrounding Bernie Fine didn’t impact the team’s performance, but then again, it’s hard to learn much from these games even in under normal circumstances. The Syracuse press looked porous the first few times the team tried it before tightening up to video game levels. Normally, games don’t end with one team having four more possessions than the other, but stealing inbounds passes as the Orange did to put the game out of reach in a hurry will do that.
I don’t expect Colgate to disappear from the schedule anytime soon, but one of the reasons I’m excited for this week’s games at the Garden is because the teams on the other sideline should be more competitive. As fun as these early blowouts can be, there just isn’t much to glean aside from the bench play. That’s not to say the bench didn’t impress – James Southerland was a nightmare once again, C.J. Fair flashed his fancy new outside jumper, Michael Carter-Williams looked the most comfortable he’s been in the short season and Baye Keita was a terror down low. It’s just difficult to make a truly accurate judgment of anything that happened without qualifying the hell out of it. More than anything, I was just happy to get away from debating hearsay and just watch basketball for a couple of hours.
Once the final horn sounded, all eyes turned to Boeheim’s presser, and in true Boeheim fashion, he at first declined to talk about the allegations against Bernie Fine before diving in and answering subsequent questions as they were raised. He just can’t help himself, but despite his curmodgeonly demeanor, his transparency and willingness to talk to media (even when not prompted) are some of his most redeeming qualities. He had already gone all-out in defending Fine when the allegations first surfaced, so in a way, there wasn’t much for him to lose by fielding additional questions Saturday. There was one particularly interesting segment of the conference when Boeheim was asked if he was concerned about the allegations negatively affecting recruiting. It was a very good question to ask, especially considering the momentum SU has gained in recruiting these past few years, and Boeheim dismissed it, mentioning that the staff doesn’t have any problem conquering the objection of the weather in Upstate New York.
Maybe Boeheim was just trying to deflate the tension, but “their assistant might be a pedophile” is a very different weapon for an opposing recruiter than “you don’t want to go there because the weather sucks.” A school is more than just basketball, and parents want to be comfortable packing their kids away somewhere where they don’t have to worry about a coach’s background and the fallout that could come from allegations. Sometimes, whether Fine is guilty or not doesn’t matter. The fact that there’s even suspicion could be enough to get recruits, parents and other handlers to change gears. That may not be the case with everyone – confidence could be restored if and when Fine is cleared, Boeheim could diffuse the situation on the phone and in living rooms – but until there’s clarity one way or the other, the dark cloud will continue to hang.
Over the weekend, more interviews featuring Bobby Davis and Mike Lang surfaced, and they didn’t do anything to clear up a foggy historical account of what happened between them and Bernie Fine. We now have contradicting accounts of how Davis first met the SU assistant currently on leave – the original was an encounter when Davis was selling candy bars in the neighborhood, while the more recent interview indicated that Davis met him while playing basketball at a park. There’s also the matter of Lang coming forward now when he didn’t in any of the previous inquiries. I’ll hold out for the possibility that he was in fact abused and the urge to repress it was just too overpowering until the recent events at Penn State brought more awareness to the issue, but from an investigative and legal standpoint, the contradiction of his original denial with his newer story seems to call his credibility into question.
Until more victims or witnesses come to the forefront, Davis’s and Lang’s stories will continue to be murky, so it’s important that the Syracuse police conduct as thorough an investigation as it can.