RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Syracuse Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim still hasn’t spoken publicly since the NCAA hit the school and his program with penalties for decade-long violations.
Boeheim skipped the postgame news conference after Saturday’s 71-57 season-ending loss at North Carolina State. He instead issued a statement – as he did Friday after the NCAA announced its ruling – saying he would ”more fully comment” on NCAA issues in the future and wanted the focus on his players.
”I’m as proud of this team as any I have ever coached,” Boeheim said. ”I think these players have done everything any and all of us could have asked them to do.”
Boeheim sent longtime assistant coach Mike Hopkins to answer questions about the game, while his players fielded questions from reporters in the visiting locker room. Hopkins said Boeheim didn’t want to have to repeatedly decline comment to questions about the NCAA case.
The school had previously announced a one-year postseason ban amid the ongoing case, meaning the trip to Raleigh would end Boeheim’s 39th season and keep the Orange out of next week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro.
The NCAA wrapped things up Friday by hitting the school with penalties for academic, drug and gifts violations committed primarily by the men’s basketball team. While the school faces financial penalties, scholarship reductions and five years of probation, Boeheim himself received a nine-game suspension for next year to be served during ACC games.
Boeheim’s statement didn’t address his future, saying only that he would have no comment ”as I consider my options moving forward.”
”I want to make sure today, as we play our last game and are together for (the) last time as (a) team, that the focus is on our players and all they have done to make our university proud,” Boeheim said. ”This should be the focus this afternoon and nothing else.”
Still, his players may have felt the weight of the Friday’s news.
Junior Michael Gbinije at first said the issues weren’t a distraction and that he tried to focus on what he could control on the court. Later, though, when asked whether it affected the team Saturday, Gbinije paused.
”Maybe, maybe,” he said. ”It’s tough, it’s not easy to go out and play with the news and everything. But I don’t think that’s an excuse of why we lost. I thought N.C. State just flat out played better than us tonight.”
It might have been easier playing at home in the Carrier Dome. Instead, N.C. State fans were eager to greet Syracuse with reminders of the NCAA troubles.
Many stopped their ”Wolf! Pack!” chant during Syracuse’s starting lineups long enough to strongly boo Boeheim.
Others sang the chorus from the Village People’s song ”YMCA” during Syracuse’s early possessions. It was a reference to some of the violations outlined by the NCAA, notably that a booster had provided more than $8,000 in cash to three football and two men’s basketball players for volunteering at a local YMCA.
Another fan held up a sign: ”Jim, will play for grades.”
When asked about people talking badly about Syracuse, guard Trevor Cooney responded: ”I mean, I didn’t commit anything. I didn’t do anything. I just came here to play basketball.”
Hopkins – a former Syracuse player under Boeheim – wouldn’t comment about the ruling by the NCAA, choosing instead to praise a team that ”just kept fighting.”
As for his mentor, Hopkins became emotional when asked about watching Boeheim deal with the issues.
”Coach is a warrior. He’s a superhero,” Hopkins said, pausing to collect himself. ”Superhero.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap