Luke DeCock

DeCock: Big NC State win followed by feeble Jim Boeheim no-show

The season for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim ended on a painful note Saturday, a 71-57 loss to N.C. State.
The season for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim ended on a painful note Saturday, a 71-57 loss to N.C. State. ehyman@newsobserver.com

At one point during Saturday’s win, N.C. State fans sang “Y.M.C.A.” to mock one of Syracuse’s myriad NCAA violations. Afterward, Jim Boeheim wouldn’t even face the music himself.

The Syracuse coach’s postgame no-show was as feeble as N.C. State’s Senior Day win was resounding, a personal capitulation to match his team’s 71-57 dismantling on the court. Instead, Boeheim issued a stilted four-paragraph statement and sent longtime assistant Mike Hopkins to the podium instead to face questions about the NCAA sanctions announced Friday.

It was beyond absurd, but it was certainly historic: Someone finally shut Boeheim up.

As Hopkins no-commented his way through NCAA questions – even the innocuous ones, like when he was told he’d be attending the news conference instead of Boeheim – four university administrators standing in the wings nodded in approval.

“I don’t want to answer anything in regards to stuff yesterday,” Hopkins said, followed by nods from the suits.

“Again, I don’t want to discuss any questions about the investigation.” Nods.

“I don’t want to answer any of those questions.” Nods.

Surely Boeheim could have managed that much.

Boeheim didn’t make many friends around the ACC before he arrived, with his haughty comments about Greensboro and Denny’s and all that, but now that he’s in the family, so to speak, his delightfully impolitic penchant for saying whatever happens to be on his mind at any particular moment has been rather endearing.

He came to the podium at Duke last season after being ejected, and he was entertainingly sardonic. At ACC basketball media day this season, he wasn’t going to talk, then he was only going to talk briefly, then rambled for more than a half-hour. The anticipation for what he might say Saturday was delicious.

“There will be time in the future for me to more fully comment on NCAA issues and of course I will take the opportunity to do that at the right time,” Boeheim’s statement read in part, reeking of lawyerly intervention.

Given the brigade of watchful higher-ups, this may not have been Boeheim’s decision to abdicate. Whoever’s decision it was, sending poor Hopkins into the firing line was cowardly.

Through all of their travails, Butch Davis, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski appeared as scheduled, every time. This nonappearance by Boeheim lends yet another blot to a reputation that’s increasingly indelibly stained.

“He’s a legend,” Hopkins said of Boeheim, presumably meant as a compliment.

Syracuse won’t be in Greensboro, having previously withdrawn from the postseason. The Orange’s offseason began about two minutes before halftime, when N.C. State began a 27-2 run.

Ralston Turner, N.C. State’s only senior starter, hit all five of his 3-pointers in the second half to end his home career on the right note. Even walk-on Staats Battle came off the bench to hit a late 3-pointer, which pleased the crowd – and the N.C. State bench – to no end.

That leaves the Wolfpack as the seventh seed in the ACC tournament and put a very neat and tidy bow on a season that had its struggles but is ending quite nicely for N.C. State. With wins of five of its past six, the Wolfpack heads into Greensboro with momentum, facing teams N.C. State has beaten this season.

N.C. State also concluded a season sweep of the ACC’s four Hall of Fame coaches – Rick Pitino, Boeheim, Krzyzewski and Williams, the latter two squaring off in Chapel Hill later Saturday.

Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried shrugged off questions about the personal side of that possibly historic feat, deferring credit to his team, but he was willing to answer. That’s more than one of those Hall of Famers can say.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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