DURHAM, N.C. — Nearly 40 minutes had passed after Jim Boeheim had gone berserk and earned himself a police escort off the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The building's visitor locker room was starting to empty, the Syracuse players trickling out to see friends and family members on the court before heading back home. Boeheim sat on a bench, explaining, yet again, why he truly believed the officials made "the worst call of the year," whistling C.J. Fair for a charge that negated what would have been No. 1 Syracuse's game-tying basket with 10.4 seconds left in Saturday's game at No. 6 Duke.
Boeheim was hit with two technicals, Duke's Quinn Cook made three of four free throws, and the top-ranked Orange ultimately fell, 66-60.
DUKE-SYRACUSE: How the game was won
WATCH: Boeheim gets tossed
Boeheim mimed the defender – Duke's Rodney Hood – and compared what he'd seen with what he'd seen from the controversial block/charge rule all season. He paused. He considered the ejection again.
"Can you believe that's the first time?" Boeheim asked, half in awe, half-bewildered.
Boeheim's first career ejection in 38 seasons – well, the first one other than in an exhibition back in 2005 – came at a most inopportune time. His team still, in theory, had a chance to come back and win the game, and that's what critics of his behavior will point to.
They'll say his expletive-filled rant and the way he leapt way out of the coach's box and ran nearly to mid-court are what cost Syracuse the game and ultimately overshadowed what had been a hard-fought contest by two top-10 teams.
They'll point to this quote from Fair after the game: "I don't know what he said, but Coach was hot. We really wanted this game. Emotion got the best of us. … I think, yeah, I think maybe if we didn't get the techs, we probably still had a chance to win. We lost by (six)? He made three of the four free throws. You do the math."
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Duke got the win in what is fast-approaching a full-fledged ACC rivalry, evening the score after an overtime loss in Syracuse earlier this month. The Blue Devils' sensational freshman Jabari Parker was, yes, sensational once more, finishing his night with 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting (a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc) and 10 rebounds.
And Boeheim felt what so many ACC coaches have felt standing here on this court: The frustration of a controversial call gone against you. (Cue the "Now, really, welcome to the ACC" chorus.)
Later, in his postgame news conference, Boeheim reverted back to his normal, sassy self. He was fervent in both his defense of Saturday night's officiating in general – "It was extremely well-officiated, as well as any game this year" – and what he believed was a block, not a charge, due to tweaks to college basketball's block/charge rule this past offseason. "It's been explained a hundred times," he said. "C.J. got in his motion. I saw the replay. The guy was moving. That's it. Simple as that."
Boeheim said he had did not regret how he acted, and that he wouldn't have any regrets tomorrow or next week, either.
"I just wanted to see if I still had it in me to get out there, and I did," he said. "I though I was quick. I stayed down. I didn't get injured. So, all those things are good. That was the game-decider right there. … I just didn't agree with that call. I kind of thought we would lose the game. I don't know if I was really thinking that much at the time, but I thought it was the game-decider.
"I just thought it was the worst call of the year, that's all."
Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who struggled through a 2-for-13 shooting night, defended Boeheim. "Coach is always sticking up for us," Ennis said. "That's what you expect a coach to do."
BOX SCORE: Duke 66, Syracuse 60
Fair agreed with his coach on the play itself. He said he felt he was already in motion, and that it should have been a block (and-one) or a no-call. Orange forward Jerami Grant said the same thing.
"I'm not surprised to see Jim's fire," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who's been a close friend of Boeheim's for decades. "That's why he is one of the greatest coaches in any sport. He reacted to it. I obviously don't want the game to end that way. I applaud him; we are both pretty old and we still care. To me, he wants to win."
But how would things be different had he been a student – and not a coach with years and years of goodwill built up? Had Fair reacted that way and screamed obscenities at an official, would he be ostracized like Marcus Smart was two weeks ago for shoving a fan? It's hard to even venture a guess.
But because it's Boeheim, the antics will simply overshadow the game's outcome.
But there is another storyline that should be more sustaining. These teams could face one another again at the ACC tournament.
"We definitely want to get them again," Ennis said. "I think both teams play as hard as they can. Every time we play them, it ends up like this."
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