0 Comments Published on 4.24.2012 by John Brennan
As I sit here composing this story on April 24, it has been exactly a month since the SU Men's Basketball season ended with a 77-70 loss to Ohio State in the Elite Eight. Brian did his usual postgame recap after that game. And we've sort of moved on to lacrosse (to the extent a Syracuse fan can care about this season...). But we've done no end-of-the-season recap. Nothing that looks back and says "This is what the season was, now let's move on to the next thing." It hasn't been apathy. Not being too busy to do it. And surely not that we didn't want to talk about it. I think because, in many ways, it's because it still doesn't feel like the season is over.
Yes, the playing of the games is done. Not just for Syracuse, but for all teams. Kentucky is your National Champion, and will return to the court next season a completely different team. Teams are busy figuring out next year's rosters: seniors graduating, underclassmen leaving for the NBA, transfers, and recruits coming in. This is the talk of college basketball right now.
But I'm not ready to close the book on the 2011-2012 basketball season. No, not for Syracuse, anyway. Because this season - one that began with an exciting Midnight Madness back in the Carrier Dome on a Friday night in October - was unlike any other Orange fans have ever seen. On the court, and off. And until both of those things have met their conclusions, this season carries on.
This season saw many great accomplishments for the basketball team: a school-best 20-0 start; undefeated at home; Big East Regular Season Champions; #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament; Elite Eight appearance; the emergence of Dion Waiters and Fab Melo as college basketball superstars; and I could go on. As a fan, what you saw on the court was almost always a pleasurable and exciting experience. These guys could play, and at times, it seemed as though they were unstoppable.
And yet, it was all against the backdrop of horrible allegations that we still don't fully comprehend. After three games -- and not even one week into the regular season -- news broke that Bobby Davis and his step-brother Mike Lang were accusing longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine of past sexual abuse. From that pivotal point forward, this season -- and every part of it -- was seen in the context of these allegations. It went from "How will the team react to these allegations?" to "How will the team react to Bernie Fine being fired?" to "How is the team able to continue performing at such a high level despite these allegations?" Through it all, the players were able not only to "talk the talk" ("When we put on the uniform and step out onto the court, it's all about basketball"), but also to "walk the walk" (it really was just all about basketball when the jersey was on and the ball was tipped). The players were unfazed.
Jim Boeheim, though, different story. He was different. He had to be different. He's the face of this program - has been for 36 seasons now. He's also the spokesman of the team, one who speaks his mind more bluntly than your old school grandfather who cares nothing about political correctness. But it's that bluntness, that candor, that has ultimately has served as the basis for keeping this season alive in my mind.
We all know the story by now: when the allegations against Bernie Fine broke, Jim Boeheim made statements in the media to the effect that Davis & Lang were liars who were in it for the money. And while the attention eventually diverted away from Bernie Fine himself, mostly due to statute of limitations issues -- and, to his credit, his virtual disappearance from the face of the earth -- this entire story has turned into a focus on what Jim Boeheim said.
A defamation lawsuit filing and too many Gloria Allred press conferences later, the drama drags on. Brian and I have offered our legal insight to the defamation case -- both on this site and on twitter -- and we both think it's heading to a dismissal. A defense motion to dismiss is scheduled to be heard this coming Friday in Onondaga Supreme Court, so maybe that will get us closer to being able to close the book on this season.
Outside of the lawsuit, we were also dealing with the constant train-wreck that was known as Zach Tomaselli. Without getting into the very discussion-worthy story behind how Tomaselli even became a part of this drama, we know that the direction of the story -- and people's views of it -- were shaped by Tomaselli's involvement. At the end of the day, he was a character who did nothing but muddy the waters. His grasp of the ideas of truth and veracity are fumble-worthy. As if almost feeling the tempo of the country and knowing when he wasn't being talked about quite as often, he would inject himself back into the story -- with another allegation, or a change in his story, or a new accusation, or a recanting of his allegations, or a recanting of his recantation, or a recantation of the recanting of his recantation oh and now I've gone cross-eyed. This all, of course, leading up to his being imprisoned last week to serve a 3+ year sentence on sexual abuse charges for which he pleaded guilty.
This season had no chance of ending unless and until Zach Tomaselli was silenced. Quite frankly, knowing how obviously troubled he was, I didn't think he would make it to report for his imprisonment. But evidently he did, and now he won't have access to twitter, to telephones, or to anything else where he can interject himself into the Bernie Fine story at his every whim. Then again, I'll be the first to put money on Mark Schwarz being granted the first on-camera prison interview.
And so, we wait. We wait for the last few pages of the 2011-2012 Syracuse Basketball season to be written. The typical fan will get a sense of closure, once the lawsuit is concluded and a sufficient time has passed without hearing from Tomaselli. But we'll never know the whole story. Bernie Fine won't be writing the epilogue. He doesn't need to. We just need a basketball season where we're just talking about basketball.