Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's postgame press conference last night was going along quite nicely for the first five minutes or so. There were questions about the importance of the Orange's win over Villanova, how the 2-3 zone defense did, and how important Dion Waiters was down the stretch.
Boeheim has never been the most cordial interviewee, but he nonetheless had some interesting things to say about those subjects.
Then came a question which produced a rather less civil response. In fact, it was probably better suited for the farms up in central New York than the more urbane nature of our fair city.
[Some of you might argue that it would be the other way around, but you get where I'm headed here.]
The exchange was as follows:
Reporter: You came up with an overtime win at home [against Rutgers on Saturday], and then a tough, tough game on the road here. Do games like this help you at this stage of the conference season?
Boeheim: I think that's all [cow-based fertilizer], you know. All that stuff, it's all [cow-based fertilizer]. We could play next week and get in the same game next week and lose. We could have ten of these in a row and win them, then get in a tournament and have one and you lose it. It's all [cow-based fertilizer].
You get in these games, somebody's got to make a play. Whichever team makes a play - we were fortunate that we had the cushion, you know. I was really upset when we let Stokes have that three. That was just a really bad defensive play.
We've made them this year. We mess up on offense, and our guards didn't pick Stokes up. That was just a fatally bad play. If they'd have picked Stokes up there, it might not get down to where it was. That was just a really bad mistake, and you can't make those mistakes.
We had two-on-ones and fastbreak opportunities and, you know, we made some bad mistakes. It's hard to keep doing that. We can't keep doing that.
Reporter: Does this league toughen a team up or beat a team up?
Boeheim: I don't know. That's like that other question. You can't - it's not that it's bad. It's just that the whole thing about toughening a team up, I don't think it hurts you. They see they can make a play. But it's like schedules.
They say, play a tough non-league schedule and it will help you for the league. Georgetown had the toughest non-league schedule in our conference and what did they start out in our league? 1-4. We had a fairly easy one and we were 5-0.
Does that mean our schedule wasn't tough enough? Or it took a little bit longer to kick in that it wasn't tough enough? That's all nonsense. It's what kind of team you have. You play a fairly decent schedule, whatever it is. You could play 14 easy games and a couple tough ones just to see, and then you can start playing.
I mean, what happens the year you start out with a tough game? You didn't have anything to get ready for. All that stuff is just, you know - it used to be that it wasn't so bad because we just had you guys. Now you've got all these people doing this all the time. Now you've got eight million answers to one question that only needs one answer.
We've got a talk show guy in Syracuse who never comes to press conferences, and he says, "They don't ever ever ask Boeheim the tough questions." So I called him. On the air. I said, "Okay, ask me a tough one."
[He said] "Well, what do you mean?" I said, "No, ask me a tough question. You know."
He said one week I took [Brandon] Triche out when he hit two shots. I said, "Well his back was bothering him, and he said he had to come out for a minute."
[And the talk show host said] "Oh. I didn't know that."
[To which Boeheim replied] "No [fertilizer]."
[The talk show host then said] "But you know, I'm not a journalist."
I said, "You didn't have to tell me that. I already knew that."
Reporter: I just thought I'd ask.
Boeheim: I like to talk.
By that point, everyone in the room was laughing.
You can listen to Boeheim's entire press conference in the audio player below. Thanks to my Philly.com colleague Dave Isaac for recording it.
The portion I transcribed starts about halfway through the track. I did not bleep out the obscenities, so those of you with sensitive ears are duly warned.
I will offer one small opinion of my own on the exchange, specifically the part about whether Syracuse's non-conference schedule was too soft.
One of the reasons why I think Villanova benefits from playing in the Big 5 is that it guarantees the Wildcats two road games against teams that usually end up with decent RPIs. Maybe not so much in the last few years, but certainly if you look at the last decade or so.
Villanova also plays in some kind of early-season exempt tournament almost every year, and they usually find one or two marquee inter-sectional non-conference games as well. As a result, the Wildcats almost always have to make a major road trip during the non-conference portion of their schedule.
By contrast, Jim Boeheim is famous for not leaving the state of New York until conferece play begins.
Syracuse and Villanova will both be in the NCAA Tournament this year. But we all know that there have been seasons in recent times when we haven't been able to say that in mid-February.
When your team is within earshot of the bubble, it probably helps your cause in March if you played on someone else's court before the winter's first major snowstorm.
Then again, I suppose in Syracuse that probably happens in July. No wonder Boeheim is so grumpy.