Bedlam, Boeheim, and Operation Basketball
Oct 17, 2013
Eight hours, a solid day's worth, of questions and answers. Safe to say, Operation Basketball is exhausting.
That's just from our standpoint, so I cannot even begin to fathom how painstaking the process is for the other half. In 11-to-15 minute intervals, players and coaches get chauffeured around the Ritz-Carlton from one station to another to repeat the chit-chat process.
Start with the local and regional media in one room. Then, hightail it across the hallway to the ACC Network peeps. Then, the Comcast crew. Followed by the ACC Digital Network. Next stop? Fox Sports. After that, Fox Sports again? Nope, Fox Sports 1, different entity, same song and dance. Are we done now? Wait, one more, off to radio row. So, who could blame Leonard Hamilton, Mark Turgeon, Brad Brownell and company if they wanted to make like a tree and get out of Charlotte.
Little surprise as to who the celebrity of Operation Basketball turned out to be. The second-winningest men's Division I college basketball coach of all-time, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. The hoops mainstay of the "Salt City" isn't exactly a local media darling, as those in Central New York may tell you. He's provided many a memorable press conference during his 37-year stretch, and he's not afraid to drop a few F-bombs. My favorite, of course, coming just before the Big East Tournament in 2006 when he went to bat, profanities in hand, for his senior point guard, Gerry McNamara. He's also let the national fellas have it from time to time, too.
In his defense, I can tell you that after spending four years on campus at Syracuse University, seasonal affective disorder is legit, and who wouldn't be a tad grumpy at times after not seeing the sun for weeks at a time!
That Boeheim did not show up on Wednesday in Charlotte. The Orange icon, who's churned out 920 wins and four trips to the Final Four, puts on his best face and played along, probably swallowing a few, "that was a stupid question" remarks along the way. In fact, when someone asked him about possibly pairing Trevor Cooney alongside a freshman point guard in his backcourt, Boeheim responded, "that's the first basketball question I've been asked all day. And it only took five hours!" Even his old friends/new league mates were excited to see him.
"I'm glad to see him because he's one of the few coaches older than me," laughed UNC head coach Roy Williams.
For Roy, attending a media event with the man he's worked alongside with USA Basketball and other various projects at an ACC event was a day he never saw coming. He'd wager money on that. In fact, he did. "I made a $5 dollar bet with someone here two years ago that Jim would never coach an ACC game. So, I owe someone $5 dollars, but it was so long ago, I can't remember who it was. All I know is that it's none of you rascals!"
Of course, no one outside of wife, Julie, may know the man better than the only guy who can claim record book superiority over Boeheim. The relationship between Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Boeheim is well-documented, and finally, this season the two will get to go head to head. In true Krzyzewski fashion, he deflected a question about whether he was looking forward to the upcoming potentially record attendance-shattering matchup between his Devils and the Orange at the Carrier Dome as a chance to prove "who's better."
"We're best friends," Krzyzewski said, which explains why the nonconference matchup never came to fruition. "We've known each other for decades, and the last eight years we've done some really neat things together for USA Basketball."
On Feb. 1, 2014 when friendship is set aside for 40 minutes of play, it'll be in front of a mass of humanity. Just a couple of hours before Krzyzewski took to the podium in Charlotte, Syracuse announced that it sold out its allotment of single-game tickets for the clash of the coaching titans.
A stub so popular, that SU tinkered with the possibility of moving Jim Boeheim Court to the center of the Carrier Dome, making a much wider audience available. The venue already holds the record for the largest attended on-campus game, when 35,012 flooded the Onondaga County facility to watch the final regular season rivalry game between the Orange and longtime Big East rivals, Georgetown.
That mark may or may not be matched, and some of the deciding folks may in fact be, in a hint of irony, the media! Anyone, who can score a press pass (and believe me, much to our disgust, there are sometimes several folks who don press passes and do nothing but take up space) will try to squeeze in, and the administration has to put us somewhere. A hoops hoopla that may be a spectacle like we've never seen? Krzyzewski speaks of it with the fervor of a trip to the dentist's office.
"Whatever happens on the court, we know that every time we get to coach against each other, it'll be an historic event. I'm sure that we will handle that in a way that will be good for the game," he said.
Other highlights from Wednesday's breakfast-to-dinner session:
Whenever the response from a student-athlete, much less a coach is, "I know you guys have to ask about it, but..." you know they are sick of the question.
Such was life for Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson Wednesday. While they remain fiercely loyal to their teammate, it's clear they've about had it with the constant inquiries about P.J. Hairston. Williams has cleverly come up with the best response to the follow-up's on the junior from Greensboro's pending availability.
"He's inactive. That's my Bill Belichick response," Williams said. Thankfully for us, that was the only hint he took from the ultimate press conference stone-waller, when it comes to media relations.
Even Mark Gottfried can smile when asked whether or not the only reason he brought Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren to Charlotte was because everyone else would've needed a nametag.
For someone whose name constantly seems to be on the hot seat, Jeff Bzdelik is "surprisingly relaxed" according to his Demon Deacon players. That may have something to do with the fact that his rather large freshmen class is now a rather large group of sophomores.
"Seven freshmen will make you grumpy," says Travis McKie. "It made me grumpy!"
Currently listening to: Laidback Luke ft. Steve Aoki and Lil Jon, "Turbulence."