As long as we’re having college basketball right now — and you could certainly argue that we shouldn’t be — teams are going to have to adapt. With dozens nationwide either on pause or coming back from a COVID-19-induced shutdown, on-court hiccups are inevitable.
The Syracuse Orange, understandably, had one on Friday. The team paused activity on Nov. 16 when head coach Jim Boeheim tested positive, but was able to come back and play its season opener on Friday. That the Orange were only able to defeat Bryant by a point, 85-84, shouldn’t be too alarming, given the circumstances.
The Orange trailed by seven at halftime, leading a frustrated Boeheim to say this:
Boeheim at halftime: "Not practicing in 14 days, you just can't play this game. They should've just canceled the game... We're not conditioned. They've got fast guys and they're pushing right by us... This is a tough game for us if we're practicing every day. We're not ready."— Matt Park (@MattPark1) November 27, 2020
Forget for a second that their pause lasted 10 days, not 14 days. I actually don’t disagree with Boeheim here. I watched a good UConn team play a bad Central Connecticut team on Wednesday, five days removed from the Huskies’ own shutdown, and UConn looked disorganized in the first 20 minutes before getting it together and racing past the Blue Devils after that. It’s possible that Syracuse just wasn’t ready.
Except Bryant head coach Jared Grasso gave a completely different account of what happened leading up to the game.
Bill Koch from the Providence Journal did the lord’s work of putting Grasso’s full quote on Twitter:
Bryant coach Jared Grasso was asked about this postgame: 'Am I supposed to give an honest reaction? Let me give an honest reaction -- we gave them five opportunities to cancel the game. They wanted to play it. We asked to move the date five times. We felt the same way.' (1/x) https://t.co/JcsI2hfsYK— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Grasso -- 'They were coming off quarantine. They asked to play it. They wanted to play us. We should have beat them at their place. If that's going to be their excuse, so be it. Now I got angry because we had this conversation with them a dozen times about moving the date.' (2/x)— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Grasso -- 'They decided not to move it. I know I'm not supposed to say that. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I'm a nobody. But the reality is we tried to change the date and give them the opportunity to change the date. They decided not to.' (3/x)— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Grasso -- 'Is that the reason we should have beat them? If they want to use that as an excuse, they can. But we came up here and we should have beat Syracuse at Syracuse. It's hard for me not to be blunt. I apologize.' 4/x— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Grasso -- 'I would have wanted to cancel the game if I was in their shoes. They didn't want to cancel the game. They made that decision. We came up here to play and came up here to win and deserved to win. We didn't make enough plays to.' (5/x)— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Grasso -- 'They're a very good team. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I have nothing but respect for him. But for them to say they wanted to cancel the game is just completely false.' (6/end)— Bill Koch (@BillKoch25) November 27, 2020
Get. His. Ass.
You don’t get to use your quarantine as an excuse for not being ready to play if your opponent told you that you didn’t have to play. The Orange wanted to get on the court (who could blame them?) and probably thought they could shake off some rust against a team from the Northeast Conference. The Bulldogs were ready.
Adding to it, there’s this nifty thing called Google dot com that lets you find articles from the past so you can see what people were saying at different points in time. Here’s what Jim Boeheim said a week ago in an article on syracuse.com with the headline “Jim Boeheim on season opener against Bryant: We’ll be ready to play next Friday:”
“We’ll be ready to play next Friday,” he said in a phone conversation. “Our players are fine. They’re in great shape.”
Don’t make stuff up and say “they” (who is they? You’re the head coach and de facto God Of Syracuse Athletics) should have cancelled the game. You had that opportunity and chose not to. You really think Grasso would be asked about that after the game?
Boeheim has earned the reputation as a whiner over the last few years and this isn’t helping. Maybe he’ll go back to throwing his own players under the bus instead.