Rony Seikaly defends Bernie Fine

Updated: November 20, 2011, 11:09 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Syracuse star Rony Seikaly, speaking in phone interviews this week about allegations against Bernie Fine, has passionately defended the Orange assistant coach, saying he refuses to believe the accusations of molestation.

"Bernie would never do such a thing," Seikaly told The Associated Press. "I vouch for Bernie. There is no way something like this could ever happen in my eyes. No way."

Seikaly arrived on the Syracuse scene a full decade into the Orange's golden era, a 6-foot-11 center who immediately logged big minutes as a freshman, two seasons before a national-contending effort that fell a point short in the NCAA tournament finale against Indiana.

[+] EnlargeRony Seikaly
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images"I spent four years with Bernie, every single day," former Syracuse star Rony Seikaly said. "I know what kind of guy he is."

Fine, who stands accused of molesting two ball boys over a 16-year period, was also integral to that run of success as coach Jim Boeheim's longtime right-hand man.

"Completely ridiculous," said Seikaly, who ranks second in career rebounds for Syracuse with 1,094, fourth in blocked shots with 319 and fourth in games started with 133. "Do people want a quick buck or something?"

Seikaly said he questions why former ball boy Bobby Davis, 39, would come forward again now, adding that he believes the headlines generated by the scandal at Penn State may have been a motivating factor.

Lawyers for some of the alleged victims in the Penn State scandal have already begun to speak publicly, raising the specter of civil lawsuits amid ongoing criminal proceedings.

Davis' initial accusations against Fine came in 2002, but police declined to go forward at the time. Syracuse opened its own investigation in 2005.

The second alleged victim, Mike Lang, now 45, is Davis' stepbrother and was a ball boy for several years. He also has told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that Fine molested him, starting when Lang was in fifth or sixth grade.

The Onondaga County district attorney has promised a full investigation into the allegations, though Syracuse police stressed to "Outside The Lines" that they are in the early stages of the investigation.

"I spent four years with Bernie, every single day," said Seikaly, who exchanged text messages with Fine as recently as Wednesday. "I know what kind of guy he is. He's just a very helpful guy. He was the glue to Syracuse basketball. He's still the glue 20 years later when you're already gone. He keeps in touch with every single player. He's that kind of guy."

Seikaly played four full seasons for Syracuse from 1984-88, when the Orange advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament three times and reached the national title game once, losing to Indiana 74-73 in 1987.

He became the ninth overall draft pick in 1988 with the expansion Miami Heat's debut selection before going on to average 15 points over 11 seasons in the NBA.

"He would never do something like that," Seikaly told the New York Post, also via phone, referring to Fine. "He is one of the very best people I know. It's disgusting that anyone would say it. It's just unbelievable."

Seikaly said he would have been aware of the behavior the coach stands accused of and that he knew of Davis "as a ball boy and that's it."

Fine was placed on administrative leave by the school Thursday night "in light of the new allegations."

Gerry McNamara, who played on Syracuse's 2003 NCAA championship team and was a four-year starter for the Orange, will fill in on the coaching staff while Fine is on leave, said Boeheim, who has also steadfastly defended Fine.

"I don't care what other people say ... I mean Boeheim wasn't there with me and Bernie," Davis told ESPN. "I don't know how he can say that. He wasn't there. How does he know what happened at Bernie's house at night? Maybe he thinks he knows Bernie like a lot of other people do, but they don't. They don't know Bernie."

No. 5 Syracuse (4-0) continued its nonconference slate Saturday afternoon with a 92-47 win over visiting Colgate. Fine's usual seat behind Boeheim was left vacant and the coach said he would not comment further on the matter.

There were no signs of Davis or Lang when AP reporters stopped by their houses on Saturday. At Lang's Constantia Cove Diner, a worker locked the door and yelled "Closed!" when reporters and a photographer approached the door, even as an "Open" sign sat in the window and customers ate at the counter.

Lang's house, which is on the market for $74,900, stood as a tribute to Syracuse hoops. Stickers were scattered over windows; basketballs, beer mugs, a clock, PEZ dispenser, and a plush mascot doll rested on the windowsill; a McNamara jersey also hung in the window. There was even a foam orange finger, signaling Syracuse is No. 1.

At Fine's house, three cars were parked in the driveway but no one answered the door.

Fine was listed as associate head coach in the game program and his photo and bio remained.

"This would have happened during my years up there. You would have to know," Seikaly said. "If I saw a little hint of such a thing, I would have done something. There was nothing. It's disgusting. You won't find one person who would voice anything other than Bernie is a good guy."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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