Syracuse entered its game against Colgate on Monday night as losers of three of its last four. After starting 25-0 last season, things haven't been quite so easy for Jim Boeheim's bunch this year.
It's a young team. The Orange lost starters Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant to the NBA, and replaced them with true freshmen in point guard Kaleb Joseph and forward Chris McCullough. The Orange have been inconsistent in the way most young teams are, already losing to Cal, Michigan, St. John's and Villanova.
Syracuse didn't have much trouble with Colgate on Monday, sprinting out to a 78-43 victory to improve to 7-4. The win apparently didn't make Boeheim feel any better about this season, though. He spent the post-game press conference publicly criticizing into his own team.
McCullough found himself as the subject of Boeheim's most pointed barbs after finishing with five points or less for the third straight game. Quotes via Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician:
If he's a lottery pick I don't how he could possibly struggle against Colgate. It just doesn't make any sense to me.
I got a better chance of winning the lottery...and I don't buy tickets.
I don't think [other teams] are even playing him. I don't think they're worried about him to be honest with you. He's got a long way to go, he's just gotta work hard and work after the game and, you know, gain 20-30 pounds and he'll be a good player someday.
This isn't the first time Boeheim has tried to tear down a young player projected to be a first-round draft NBA draft pick. It's a continuation of something that's happened throughout his career.
NBA Mock Drafts
NBA Mock Drafts
The process with McCullough started last month after the 6'10 forward began showing up in mock drafts. Boeheim lashed out at ESPN's Chad Ford and others for putting him there, saying "I've talked to 10 pro scouts and not one of them thought that Chris McCullough was a first-round pick."
At the moment, McCullough is the No. 15 player on Ford's board, while NBADraft.net has him going No. 7.
Boeheim did the same thing last year when Ennis and Grant decided to declare. He essentially cut off all contact with them and continued to be critical of the players' decisions into June. Ennis ended up going to Phoenix as the No. 18 selection, while Grant was picked in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers. Ennis has spent much of the year in the D-League while Grant recently returned from injuries is just now starting to get minutes in Philly.
While Boeheim hasn't criticized every Syracuse underclassmen to leave school (he was fine with Dion Waiters going), comments like these are starting to become one of college basketball's worst annual traditions. Boeheim is the 23rd highest paid coach in the country this season with a salary over $1.8 million per year, but he still can't seem to see why players like McCullough, Grant or Ennis would have the audacity to decide to stop playing basketball for free.
What's unfortunate is McCullough didn't ask for any of this. After Boeheim's heated remarks in November, McCullough said he wasn't paying any attention to his draft stock. "I'm not thinking about it. I'm just trying to go out, play my game and win some games," he told Syracuse.com.
For whatever reason, Boeheim still feels the need to go on the offensive about something that even the player likely isn't thinking about much at this point. There's plenty of ways to develop young talent, and perhaps publicly criticizing them is one way. The more this happens, though, it's a wonder how Boeheim is still able to recruit so well to Syracuse. It's worth pointing out that his 2015 recruiting class is one of the best in the country.
What's obvious is why Boeheim feels obligated to go on early attacks. The new ACC is a death march, and Syracuse needs all hands on deck. You can see for yourself how the Orange are fairing without Ennis and Grant this year. They lost to Michigan. Everyone beats Michigan.
Obviously, coaches like Boeheim put a lot of time and energy into recruiting players good enough to jump to the NBA. Losing them after a season or two must be a bummer. Boeheim has won nearly 1,000 career games, so at a certain point you would think he'd be fine either way.
Still, every time this comes up it becomes more obvious just how far Boeheim's self-serving mindset extends. If the cost of trying to keep McCullough in school for another year is reaming out a teenager in the press, so be it.
Our Syracuse community Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician sees it another way:
All I'll say is, knowing how Boeheim works, this is less about trying to ruin a kid's NBA career and more about keeping his head in game.— NunesMagician.com (@NunesMagician) December 23, 2014
Sean Keeley has also written extensively about criticism over Boeheim in the past.
You can watch Boeheim press conference here:
This post has been updated with additional information.