Jim Boeheim issues unabashed apology

Updated: December 5, 2011, 2:58 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was angry and defensive when the allegations of sexual molestation were levied against his longtime associate head coach, Bernie Fine.

Boeheim lashed out at the accusers. He called them liars and said they were seeking money.

But Boeheim has gone through a metamorphosis of emotions the past two weeks, and accepted Fine's firing Sunday night by university chancellor Nancy Cantor.

On Friday night, he took another dramatic step. He apologized.

Boeheim entered the postgame news conference after Syracuse's 72-68 win over Florida and said he had to address a few pressing issues.

"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made," said Boeheim, who was emotional in delivering his remarks. "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 said he consulted with a number of people about his statement, but he said no one forced him to issue an apology.

Advocates for sex abuse victims criticized Boeheim and sought his resignation or firing for his disparaging remarks, which included telling the Syracuse Post-Standard after the allegations first surfaced: "The Penn State came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about, money."

Boeheim issued a statement Sunday saying he regretted his comments.

His postgame news conference Tuesday after a win against Eastern Michigan was a bit more combative and there wasn't a full apology.

"I reacted without thinking," Boeheim said about his initial response. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'm trying to learn from my mistake. That's all I can say. There is an investigation going on, which I fully support. We all need to know as much as we can as to what happened."

On Friday, Boeheim said he spent the previous day at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse. He said he has raised money for the cause but now wants to take a more active role.

Earlier Friday, newly named assistant coach Gerry McNamara said the Fine case and firing has weighed on the staff. Boeheim said it has consumed him.

"It's been everything," Boeheim said. "I haven't really thought about the game. I didn't worry about my players being focused. I was focused for them at practice.

"But this is, this whole topic, it's not harder on me; it's people who have been abused, that's who it's hard on," Boeheim said. "I've given a lot of money and raised a lot money but I want to do more in the future for kids in this area and McMahon/Ryan is the best place in the area for kids to go and talk. They need to get this message out. They're not even concerned about me raising money but concerned about getting this message out.

"I will do everything I can do, whether I'm coaching or not coaching. I've always been committed to kids. There's no question in my mind that the issue of abuse is the No. 1 (issue) that we should all be concerned about in this community. That's what I'm going to try to do."

In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Boeheim said he'll go ahead with his campaign against child abuse even though he knows his motives will be questioned.

Boeheim said he didn't realize "how much abuse there is and how much work needs to be done."

He said "people are always going to question why you do something, but we're going to do this and continue to do it."

Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984, and that the sexual contact continued until he was about 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis said the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four. Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine began molesting him when he was in the fifth or sixth grade.

A third accuser, 23-year-old Zach Tomaselli of Lewiston, Maine, came forward Sunday. He said he told police that Fine molested him in 2002 in a Pittsburgh hotel room after a game. He said Fine touched him "multiple" times in that one incident.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" released Sunday an audio recording made in 2002 between Davis and Fine's wife, Laurie, in which she admitted knowledge of abuse when Davis was a child. Cantor said that she fired Fine based on the release of the recorded conversation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Secret Service are leading an investigation of child molestation allegations against Fine.

Earlier in the week, USA Basketball's Jerry Colangelo told ESPN.com that Boeheim's spot as the top assistant to U.S. national team (and Duke) coach Mike Krzyzewski for the 2012 London Olympics was safe, as was his role as the chair of the USA Basketball junior national team. Colangelo, who said Boeheim was a personal friend, also said he would be monitoring the situation.

Florida coach Billy Donovan had an extended handshake with Boeheim after Friday's game and offered his support. Donovan said he has known Boeheim for years, as a rival player at Providence and in the past two decades as an opposing coach, and considers Boeheim a friend.

"I just told him I'm thinking about him," Donovan said. "I don't know the details of what's going on, but I feel I know Jim Boeheim very well. He's always been great to me as a player and in coaching and with USA Basketball in the summer. I've known him for 25 years and I appreciate what he did for me as a young coach.

"Eventually the truth will come out. I know how much time he has invested in this program and what he's done. I feel for him. He's a great man and a great coach and he's built a heck of a program. And that's why I know that it's hard on him."

Boeheim said his decision to visit the McMahon/Ryan facility is just a continuation of his commitment to children.

"I'm continuing with what I've been doing," Boeheim said. "I'm not trying to do something to change somebody's opinion."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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