Jim Boeheim Fires Back at Criticism of Jalen Johnson Comments

Syracuse's head coach defends his comments on former Duke star Jalen Johnson.
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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim fired back at those criticizing his comments on former Duke forward Jalen Johnson. 

After Syracuse's 75-67 comeback win over Notre Dame, Boeheim responded to those critics.

"What I said the other night about Duke, who we're going to play, had nothing to do with my friendship with Mike Krzyzewski," Boeheim said. Had nothing to do with Jalen Johnson at all. I watched two games, I said two games. That was a mistake. A half of North Carolina State and the whole game against Wake. What I saw, and Seth Greenberg saw too, they played the best I've seen them play this year. Wake Forest just lost in overtime at Florida State. Duke had them down 30. NC State's a good team, I think. They just beat Pittsburgh. I think they're pretty good. They beat North Carolina. 

"They crushed them in the second half without Jalen Johnson. This is no dispersion, casting dispersion on Jalen Johnson. I haven't even see Jalen Johnson play this year. He's a tremendous player, probably be a great pro. I just made the observation, my opinion, that I thought they played better without him in those two games. Jay Bilas said I said that they're a better team without him, permanently. I didn't say that, I didn't mean to say that. Just in those two games, game and a half, they were 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's not thinking about his team. I didn't say that. I don't even know Jalen Johnson, I haven't seen him that much, I don't know how good he is. Duke could be better if he was back. We'll not know that because he didn't come back.

"But I was not trying to downgrade Jalen Johnson in any way shape or form. And Jay Bilas is flat wrong if he thinks I did that. I didn't. I made an honest evaluation. We're playing Duke Monday, this was Thursday. That I think Duke's playing the best that they've played. Period. That's all. I had a headline on Yahoo or someplace 'Boeheim attacks Jalen Johnson.' I never said one word about Jalen Johnson as a player, or a person or his decision. I just said I thought Duke looked better. That's all. Maybe they're not better, I don't know. But I thought that. That was my opinion. That's it. Nothing else. I don't know the kid, probably a great kid. Stuff about his camp, kids can do whatever they want. If a kid decides not to play, I can't remember a kid on a team in the last 10 years that has stopped in the season. I'm sure there has, maybe been. I can't remember that. But I don't care. If he wants to do that, that's fine. Players are going to be able to transfer anywhere they want to and play right away. I'm all for that. I supported that. I think it'll have problems, but I support it. Players are going to get their NIL rights. I supported that. I think it'll cause problems, but that's OK. I'm still supporting it. I support Jalen Johnson in whatever he decides to do. 

"I just said Duke looked better, to me. That's it. Nothing against any player. I maybe wrong. Maybe they'll play terrible now, but they were good in those two games. End of story. If you have to use my talkshow to get stuff to write, you ought to be in another profession." 

Johnson opted out for the remainder of the season in order to focus on his professional prospects, and Boeheim was asked about the move this past week with Duke as an upcoming opponent of the Orange. 

"That guy was hurting them so they actually are much better now without him," Boeheim said on Thursday. "He was just doing some things and keeping other people from playing that are good. They've had two monster wins since he's opted out." 

Many criticized Boeheim's comments, including ESPN's Jay Bilas. 

"Well I didn't agree with Jim when he said that," Bilas said Saturday on ESPN. "This is somewhat of a familiar ring. A couple years ago when James Akinjo left Georgetown, Jim said the think about James Akinjo. That Georgetown was better off without him. That Akinjo never passes the ball, that he's not a good player, things like that. I didn't agree with that. Akinjo was at the top of the Big East, or near it, in assists. He's at the top of the PAC-12 now at Arizona in assists. He does pass the ball and he is a good player. 

"And I don't agree that somehow Duke is better off without Jalen Johnson just because they've beaten NC State and Wake Forest without him. Earlier in the season they beat Georgia Tech and Clemson with him and we were saying that Duke was turning the corner. I don't agree with what Jim said and that's fine."

Bilas went on to criticize those claiming Jalen Johnson has a "camp" or "posse" that made this decision for him. That narrative was out there from those not in favor of Johnson's decision, though those comments did not come from Boeheim.