Boeheim vs Katz

Sometimes coaches do outlandish things in post-game press conferences to take the attention away from their team's struggles. That's exactly what Jim Boeheim did last night, but not on purpose.

If you haven't heard the short version goes like this: Boeheim called ESPN's Andy Katz "an idiot and a very disloyal person" in the post-game press conference after Katz asked him a simple question. "I'll answer anyone's question but yours." Boeheim said.



Today there has been context provided from the Post-Standard. Boehiem told Bud Poloquin that it stems from a singular incident last season in which Katz tried to make Boeheim answer questions about the Bernie Fine scandal on-camera in a taped interview and the coach refused. This is after he had told Katz he wouldn't. He kept his word. Boeheim told him he'd never talk to him again. He's keeping his word.

So who's right and wrong? As you know by now, I rather enjoy writing and talking about the media so what's the verdict here. It's the same as nearly any problem involving two people. Both think they're right, the other's wrong and the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Where Katz is wrong

Television, and specifically national television, gets special perks that us little local media squirts wouldn't get. Katz never gets this one-on-one on-camera interview with Boeheim if ESPN doesn't sign his checks. The interview was supposed to be (according to Boeheim) about the tournament SU was playing in. These types of things are standard. You've seen the cutaway interview with just the coach/player on camera a million times. It starts full screen and then likely goes to a box in the corner to show the action. Most of the time you don't even know who's asking the questions.

If Boeheim told Katz that he wouldn't speak about the Fine case, then that's fine. Katz doesn't have to agree and he gets credit for asking the question everyone wanted answered and Boeheim didn't want asked. Boeheim says Katz was relentless though, asking upwards of 10 times about Fine. Katz says it was "only five or six. You want to know how many is acceptable? One.

The second Boeheim goes "I told you I wouldn't talk about that" in this kind of interview, you move on, especially if keeping a relationship with one of the most significant coaches in college basketball is important to you. This business is about relationships and Katz of all people should know that considering he has relationships all over the country that help him break news. Pissing off a hall of famer isn't exactly good for business just so you can stand on a moral high ground screaming about how you asked the tough question.

Katz is right in that he should get to ask the question and if he didn't agree to any boundaries kudos to him for doing it. However if he told or implied to Boeheim that he wouldn't touch the Fine scandal and did anyway, that's unethical. Some might disagree. Here's my rule on ethics - does it make you a crappy human being? Being dishonest or misleading does. Bad ethically. Simple as that. You don't swap honesty for access.

If those were the terms and Katz didn't like them, he can walk away from the interview. You don't take it and then do what you said you wouldn't. This means that if things went down the way Boeheim said they did, he has every right to be upset. That's of course all if that agreement was in place. From Katz via ESPNPR:

“Nothing of the sort took place. There was never any agreement not to ask Fine-related questions. In fact, that was ESPN’s first chance to speak with Coach Boeheim after the Fine news broke so of course we would ask him about it.  He had just come from a press conference where he addressed it as well.  Separately, later in that tournament, he agreed to talk to me on camera for a post-game interview.”

So there's that.

Where Boeheim is wrong

Being upset and abusing a pulpit to vent your frustrations are two totally different things. Boeheim knows when the cameras are on him and that he can use them to make a statement. He's done it positively this year with his message on gun violence following his 900th win. Boeheim likes to play the "I'm just a little old basketball coach in Syracuse" card but he knows the platform he has.

If Boeheim last night had simply told Katz "I told you I'm not talking to you and a press conference is no different" than there's really no complaining about Boeheim unless you want to call him a grudge holding curmudgeon.

Where Boeheim went wrong is what he said and he even admitted that today to the Post-Standard:

"I probably shouldn't have called him an 'idiot,'" he allowed. "That slipped out. Sometimes that happens after games."

Anytime your behavior could be compared to a 3rd grader, you've probably made a mistake on some level. Coming down to the level of name calling is nothing new for Boeheim unfortunately. Typically it's directed at writers at the Daily Orange or some other local media member. Do we congratulate him for equal opportunity in this case? Not so much.

As a point of contention, Boeheim also had no right to question Katz's loyalty as that implies the ESPN reporter should have some loyalty to Syracuse and Boeheim. Part of Katz's job is objectivity and while there's definitely room for liking a guy on a personal level, loyalty doesn't really enter the equation and Katz has every right to defend that point as he did to the Post-Standard.

Boeheim does have a right to question Katz's honesty though. If he deceived Boeheim into saying "no comment" ten times on camera, then the coach has a point. He didn't make that point though.

In Summary

This is stupid. It's petty. Boeheim routinely chastises reporters in a public manner instead of handling them man-to-man. In this case, the problem wasn't even public so it brought attention to a matter no one knew existed. Maybe that was Boeheim's point? To "out" Katz as a dishonest jerk? But to what endgame? ESPN's not firing him. Public shame? Who knows.

As far as Katz goes, he'll get away largely unscathed. He's got years of good work under his belt and has enough well placed sources that one coach not talking to him isn't going to cause him to lose sleep. He also will get a free pass from many who will simply go "there goes Boeheim" again.

The truth? Both are wrong. To Boeheim's credit, he copped to the name-calling. I wouldn't expect him to change his ways though.

Oh and by the way. Syracuse lost last night and Michael Carter-Williams only had one assist. He's got bigger issues to worry about.