ATLANTA – Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim has been answering questions about his possible retirement almost on a daily basis since early March when the Syracuse University twitter account sent out – and then deleted – a tweet that the long-time Orange coach would step down after this season.
Since the Big East Conference tournament in New York, Boeheim has said repeatedly that he has no plans to retire. He talked at length on the subject and said the same thing during a press conference at the Final Four Thursday.
But after Syracuse’s 61-56 national semifinal loss to Michigan Saturday night in the Georgia Dome, Boeheim was asked again. Gregg Doyel, columnist for CBSSports.com, made it the first question posed to Boeheim during the formal post-game press conference, asking Boeheim when he thought he would “decide, announce, whether or not you’re coming back next year?”
That prompted a curt response from Boeheim, who has a long history of confrontations with reporters. What followed was one of the most interesting press conference exchanges in Final Four history.
“Why would you ask that question?” Boeheim responded. “I expect it from you. I know you. Why ask that question? Are you going to ask [Michigan coach] John Beilein that question?”
Doyel: We ask 19 year old questions and they handle it better than you are.
Boeheim: You ask a 19 year old kid if he's going to retire? Really?
Doyel: If they're going to be back next year.
Boeheim: If you're going to say something smart, at least be smart.
Doyel: I said be back next year, I didn't say retire. If you're going to be smart, at least get it right.
Boeheim: I am right.
Doyel: Are you going to be back next year or not?
Boeheim: I'm not going to answer that question unless you ask every coach that question. Are you going to ask John if he's going to retire or not coming back next year? I've never indicated at any time that I'm not coming back next year – ever.
At that point, Boeheim was asked a question by another reporter and Doyel briskly walked out of the interview room – back to the media workroom. Boeheim obviously noticed Doyel’s departure and after answering the next question about the game, said,
“If I answer a question, you don't really like it, you don't have to run away. I mean, [crap]. I get questions all the time I don't like. I don't get up and run away. You guys are so unbelievable. The thinnest skins of anybody I've ever seen. I thought [coaches] were that way. Golly, just run out.”
Doyel then returned to the interview room and Boeheim, 68, revisited the topic again without a follow-up question.
“Just to answer the question, so everybody knows, I've answered all the questions, even though I get mad,” Boeheim said. “I have never said I was not going to be back next year at any time ever. I'm frankly tired of being asked that question.
“I don't mean to be personal on anybody. Anybody that asked that question I would have been upset because, you know, I just think . . . I don't know why. Just because you get old. Because I'm old? I mean, what is it?”
Doyel responded, saying his theory was that Boeheim doesn’t “want to coach in the ACC” because of his Big East loyalty. Boeheim was one of the original coaches in the Big East when it formed in 1979. Syracuse will begin play in the ACC next season as the Big East splinters and divides into the Big East and American Athletic conferences.
“I'm sorry, I apologize,” Boeheim said. “It wasn't you. Anybody that asked that question, I would have been mad.
“But, no, I've heard this. Roy Williams has got a bet on it, somebody else has got a bet on it. I love the Big East, but if the Big East was the same as it was, or even remotely the same, I would quit because I wouldn't be happy.
“The Big East is not there at all. In fact, there's more Big East teams in the ACC than there are Big East teams in whatever the conference is, American whatever.
“So I should be happy because there's more teams that I know in the ACC. I've always thought that the two best leagues in the country were the ACC and the Big East over the last 34 years. I've always thought that. I mean, somebody can prove me wrong in a number of ways, but it's just my opinion. I always thought they were the two best leagues.
“For us to be able to stay on the East Coast, and predominantly all our games are an hour and a half [away], almost all. And in the Big East, without this crazy expansion, we had to go to Florida, we had to go to Marquette, had to go to Notre Dame anyway. So we had long trips. We'll have the same long trips that we had. When you're chartering now, it's really an hour, most of these trips.
“I mean, the ACC has absolutely zero input into whether I would not coach next year. The only reason that I would not coach next year is because I didn't feel I could do a good job or wanted to do it, and I have no feeling at all now that that will be the case. Usually right now I would have that feeling. If I don't have it now, I'm not going to have it in September.
“And I don't want anybody to be thinking, like I don't want to ever say, ‘I'll think about it and tell you later.’ I'll never do that. I'll never do that. I think that's not the way to do it for the program, and I wouldn't do that.
“But I've enjoyed this team as much as any team I've ever coached. They've achieved more than I ever thought they could. And I always think they can achieve a lot. You know, I like where we are. Everything in me intends to be back coaching next year. And I always say this at the end, that's probably why people ask me the question: there's always a chance that somebody might think, you know, you get back into coaching, you get in the thing, you just don't feel it. If that happens, you know, I don't want to ever let it be said that I misled anybody.
“As far as I know, I'm 100 percent coaching next year. And, you know, that's really kind of where I'm at right now.”
Boeheim, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, in December joined Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only Division I coaches with 900 victories. He came to Syracuse as a freshman player in 1962 and became head coach in 1976. He is the Division I leader in wins at one school with 920. Krzyzewski is the all-time leader in coaching victories with 957.