Syracuse manager Jim Boeheim has tried to go back on comments critical of Duke newcomer Jalen Johnson, who skipped the Blue Devils last six regular season games and instead prepared for the NBA draft.
Commenting on Johnson’s decision during his weekly radio show on Thursday, Boeheim said the former five-star recruit “injured” his team and his absence actually gave Duke two wins. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his teammates supported Johnson’s decisions and prompted many to wave Boeheim’s comments. For example, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas called it “inappropriate”.
Following the backlash, Boeheim tried to clear his statement on Saturday: What he intended with his comments, Boeheim said, was that Duke only played the best ball of the season in the game and a half he saw after Johnson was eliminated.
“This is not a dispersion that dispersion throws at Jalen Johnson,” said Boeheim. I haven’t even seen Jalen Johnson play this year, to be honest. He’s a great player. Probably be a great professional. I just made the observation, my opinion, that they played better in those two games without him. Jay Bilas said I would have said that without him they would be a better team all the time. I did not say that. I didn’t mean to say that.
“Only in those two games, a game and a half, were they a better team than I’ve seen this year. Nothing against Jalen Johnson. Some people have said he shouldn’t have left school – I didn’t say that. Some people have said he doesn’t think about his team – I didn’t say that. I don’t even know Jalen Johnson, I really haven’t seen him that often, I don’t even know how good he is and Duke could be better if he were back . We won’t know because he didn’t come back. “
MORE: Bilas shoots Boeheim’s “inappropriate” comments on Johnson
Below are Boeheim’s original comments on Johnson (via Syracuse.com).
“This guy hurt you, so now you’re much better without him. He just did a few things and kept other people from playing well. They’ve got two monster wins since he signed off and they play good basketball. You have very good talent. They knew they were going to play out of this, and now they’re playing well. Every game we play is a very difficult game, a huge challenge and we look forward to it. “
Regardless of Boeheim’s intent, it is probably best practice not to comment on other teams’ players, especially not in a way that could be construed negatively. This is not the first time he has made such comments, saying that Georgetown security guard James Akinjo, who left the 2019 program, “would not pass the ball on to anyone.” Akinjo an average of 5.1 supported over 40 games with the Hoyas.
Syracuse plays for Duke on Monday.