Legendary coaches speaks out on tragedy

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    The tragic Newtown, Connecticut massacre where a heavily armed man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and within a couple minutes, killed 26 people – 20 of them children, is seemingly having a lasting effect on the consciousness of caring Americans.

    Following legendary college coach Jim Boeheim’s third-ranked Syracuse Orange’s 72-68 victory over Detroit in the Gotham Classic, thus becoming only the third Division I men’s coach to win 900.

    Boeheim, 68 and in his 37th year at his alma mater, is 900-304 and joined an elite fraternity. Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) are the only other men’s Division I coaches to win that many games.

    It was a sobering end to what was a memorable evening for Syracuse basketball. Boeheim quickly put his landmark achievement behind him as his thoughts in the postgame press conference moved to the re-occurening mass shootings that are engulfing America,

    “To me, it’s just a number,” said Boeheim, whose first victory was against Harvard in 1976. “If I get 900, have I got to get more? That’s why maybe it’s just not that important to me because to me it’s just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does.

    With his wife, Juli, looking on at the postgame press conference and his young children close by, Syracuse coach Boeheim’s final remarks were not about his milestone 900th career victory.

    Instead, he was thinking about the Newtown victims.

    “If we cannot get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society,” Boeheim said. “If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots — this is our fault if we don’t go out there and do something about this. If we can’t get this thing done, I don’t know what kind of country we have.”

    Boeheim was not along, following first-year Winthrop basketball coach Pat Kelsey Eagles’ 65-55 loss to No. 7 Ohio State he spoke about last week’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

    Using his postgame press conference following the his team’s loss to Ohio State, Kelsey during the press conference, spoke passionately about the need for people to “stand up” and keep the United States the “Greatest Country. Ever.” He challenged national leaders to bring about changes necessary to prevent future tragedies.

    Kelsey told reporters: “When I walked into the press conference, I had never been in a chair with a microphone in front of me with that many cameras. Something came over me. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or what, but it struck me that I had a platform that very few people in the world have.”

    He expressed thanks for having the ability to go home and kiss his daughters, ages 4 and 5, who are barely younger than the youngest Newtown victims.

    “Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches, everybody needs to step up,” Kelsey said. “This has to be a time for change.. And I know this microphone’s powerful right now, because we’re playing the fourth-best team in the country.”

    Such a strong statement from the first-year coach of a mid-major university took some people by surprise, but longtime Elder coach Joe Schoenfeld said that type of talk is part of what makes Kelsey a respected coach and humanitarian.

    “He’s a servant-leader. He’s not afraid to lead, but he’s leading to try and help other people,” Schoenfeld said. “He does a lot of nice things for people, often behind the scenes, and this time just happened to be in front of the camera.”

    Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

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