Boeheim apologetic for initial comments on Fine accusers

After the most noteworthy win of the season for the Syracuse University men's basketball team, head coach Jim Boeheim apologized for calling Bernie Fine accusers Bobby Davis and Mike Lang liars when the accusations first came to light Nov. 17.

Jim Boeheim stood solemnly at the podium Friday night. Something was definitely on the mind of the Hall-of-Fame coach. Even though No. 3 Syracuse (8-0) had just won a big game against No. 9 Florida (5-2), Boeheim was noticeably distracted. After briefly talking about the game, he apologized for initial statements regarding the accusations against former assistant coach Bernie Fine more than two weeks ago. 

“I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made,” Boeheim said Friday. “I shouldn’t have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused.”

Boeheim then went on to say that his comments were especially insensitive toward the alleged victims involved and the overall issue of child abuse. He also mentioned that he visited the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center for child abuse in Syracuse this week and plans to help raise awareness about child abuse in the area.

“I think it’s important that I get involved more in terms of raising awareness,” Boeheim said. “I’m going to do everything I can to do that, whether I’m coaching or not coaching. I’ve always been committed to kids.”

When the allegations against Fine surfaced on Nov. 17, Boeheim was adamant in his support of his long-time assistant coach. He even went so far as to accuse alleged victims Bobby Davis, now 39, and Mike Lang, now 45, of lying about the allegations for money.

“What I said last week was out of loyalty,” Boeheim admitted. “I reacted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

At that point, only two men came forward to accuse Fine of molesting them while they were ball boys for the basketball team. Davis told ESPN's Outside the Lines on Nov. 17 that Fine molested him in the 1980s and continued to do so until Davis was around 27. Lang, Davis’ stepbrother, also said that Fine molested him while he was in fifth or sixth grade. Ten days after the allegations first surfaced, Nov. 27, Fine was fired in response to ESPN's release of a taped phone call between the first accuser, Davis, and Laurie Fine. In the tape, Laurie appeared to have knowledge that Fine allegedly had a problem. Zach Tomaselli, 25, of Lewiston, Maine, also came forward on Nov. 27. He accused Fine of molesting him in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002. 

Boeheim then released a new statement on Facebook, in which he said he regretted any comments he made that may have been insensitive to victims of abuse. However, Friday night’s press conference was Boeheim’s first official apology regarding his immediate statements on Nov. 17. 

After Tuesday night’s win against Eastern Michigan, Boeheim seemed to be on the defensive, as questions surrounding his responsibly as head coach and his job security were raised. He remained unconcerned about the safety of his job, and was deeply saddened about the developments that had unfolded early that week.

“I’m trying to learn from my mistake,” he said. “This has been a hard time.”

Two weeks after his initial remarks, Boeheim is humbled and is doing more to stop anything like this situation from happening again.

“There’s no question in my mind the issue of abuse is the number one thing we should all be concerned about in this community,” Boeheim said. 

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