_acc media day_ syracuse coach jim boeheim on rick pitino, dajuan coleman and more _ ______syracuse. com

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Charlotte, N. C. — Dajuan Coleman is a center, not a pitcher. As a result, the Syracuse University junior will not be on a basketball version of a pitch limit this season as he returns from knee surgery.

Coleman missed all of last season and the latter part of the 2013-14 season after suffering the second knee injury of his career in January of 2014. Coleman returns this year and is considered a key to SU’s success


as he takes over for Rakeem Christmas as the Orange’s starting center.

The question is whether Coleman will be able to hold up over the course of the entire season. But don’t look for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to treat Coleman like New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey or Washington Nationals hurler Stephen Strasburg and put him on a minutes limit.

“No, that has nothing to do with his knee,” Boeheim said Wednesday here at the ACC’s media day. “He’s either going to go and be all right or he’s going to go and not be all right. It has nothing to do with his minutes. He could play two minutes a game and get hurt or he could play the whole game and not get hurt.”

However, Boeheim did say Coleman, who stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 255 pounds, would need rest.

“His limitation would be that he hasn’t played in two years and the conditioning factor,” Boeheim said. “He is going to need rest. He would anyway. Big guys like that need rest, they need to come out. The game is fast and it’s hard to get up and down when you’re carrying 270 pounds. He needs rest. He’ll be out. He’ll be rested, but it’s not because of (the injury). If he was a guard and he was back healthy, he’d play the whole game.”

The last time Coleman played, he averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore in the 2013-14 season.

“I know if he’d been playing, he’d be a heck of a player by now,” Boeheim said. “He’s going to be rusty. Tiger Woods took six months off and he couldn’t play anymore. Two years is a long time. He’s doing everything we would expect. He’s had some real good moments in practice, but it’s going to take time. If he stays healthy, I think he’ll be fine.”

***

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was the most noticeable coach at the ACC’s media day, and he wasn’t even there.

Pitino, under the advice of legal counsel, did not attend the media day event in the wake of a sex scandal involving a former Louisville staffer allegedly hiring strippers and hookers for Louisville players and recruits.

Pitino and Boeheim have been friends for years. When he became Syracuse’s head coach in 1976, Boeheim hired Pitino as an assistant. But despite their long history, Boeheim said he hasn’t talked to Pitino yet about the scandal.

“I will call him, but not right now,” Boeheim said. “But I will talk to him.”

When he does talk to his former assistant, Boeheim said he doesn’t plan on offering him any advice.

“I don’t give advice,” Boeheim said. “I’ll just talk to him as a friend. He’s smart. He knows what he has to do.”

***

It’s most likely that 6-foot-7 senior Michael Gbinije will start at point guard for the Orange, although Boeheim still wouldn’t completely commit to it.

“He will be used in different spots,” Boeheim said. “He will primarily be used at point guard. That’s where he can help us the most.”

Boeheim said Gbinije is much better than he was when he transferred to Syracuse from Duke three years ago.

“I think Mike has grown as much or more of any player I’ve ever coached,” Boeheim said. “He came in as a small forward that didn’t handle the ball that well and didn’t shoot the ball that well, to be honest with you. There was a reason he didn’t play at Duke. It wasn’t just that they had better players. He just really wasn’t good in those areas.

“And the first year when he sat out, he worked hard. He got better, but his first year playing he was not that good in those areas. And then I thought last year he really started to show what he could do, and I think he still didn’t get to where he is now because I don’t think he really believed, like, I’m one of the best players in this league. And he needs to have that attitude, and I think he has it. He’s improved his shooting skills, his ball handling skills, which is obviously why he could be in that position.

“But I really think he could be one of the most improved players I’ve ever coached,” Boeheim concluded, “and he could have a big year this year.”

***

With Michael Gbinije starting at point guard, that means last year’s starter, Kaleb Joseph, is likely to come off the bench this season. But Boeheim said Joseph will still get plenty of playing time.

Boeheim said because of Syracuse’s lack of depth at both forward and center, Gbinije will be needed at forward. Thus, Joseph will still have opportunity to play.

And there’s this: Boeheim says Joseph has improved and has looked good in practice.

“If Michael Gbinije had graduated, I would be very comfortable with Kaleb starting at the point,” Boeheim said. “Very comfortable, unlike last year, (when) I was not that comfortable.”

***

Boeheim was asked on more than one occasion if the NCAA’s change from a 35-second shot clock to a 30-second shot clock would help speed up the game, increase scoring and, perhaps, even help the Orange with its 2-3 zone defense.

Boeheim, on more than one occasion, said no.

“The teams that hurt us play faster,” he said. “Teams that play slow, usually we beat. Teams that play faster and get better shots a little quicker, beat us. There are exceptions to the rules.”

Boeheim said the change that has the best chance at speeding up the game will be new rules regarding the physical nature of play.

“If they enforce the rules as they are written and get the physicality out of the game, that will help,” Boeheim said. “The 24-second clock would do it without that. The 24-second clock would speed the game up. But coaches think they can’t get a shot in 24 seconds. Funny, they can in all the rest of the world. All the rest of the world can get a shot off in 24 seconds and we can’t?”

***

At one point during his press conference in the ACC’s main interview room, Boeheim spotted former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins.

“My good friend Bobby Cremins told me a few years ago that I’d get to 800-900 wins,” Boeheim said. “He didn’t tell me I might not keep them all.”

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