Mark Grimm


Lesson Learned: SU Coach Boeheim May Have Saved Job

I told Syracuse radio station WSYR Thursday I thought Syracuse University Coach Jim Boeheim’s disastrous press conference Tuesday put his job in jeopardy and he needed to do a few things immediately to recover. The next day, Coach Boeheim may have saved his job with his new response.

This development offers us a valuable lesson in crisis communication. I’d like to break it down to make it a more instructive experience. Here’s what I felt was needed and what Coach Boeheim did:

1-Grimm on Thursday:
Coach Boeheim must apologize by saying he made a big mistake when he verbally attacked the alleged victims and should have waited to all the facts were in.
Boeheim on Friday:
“I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made. 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 I caused.”

2-Grimm on Thursday:
I said the coach’s misguided loyalty was harmful because he had a higher duty to ensure no stone was left unturned to protect children.
Boeheim on Friday:
“What I said last week was out of loyalty. I reacted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’m trying to learn from my mistake.”

3-Grimm on Thursday:
Coach Boeheim should have sought prior professional communication help and not relied on just a friend to help him prepare Tuesday’s remarks.
Boeheim on Friday:
“I have talked to some people today and yesterday about what I was going to say. These are my thoughts. I am not good enough to put them down on paper. I just am not.”

4-Grimm on Thursday:
Once the coach apologizes, he should not say anything else until all the facts are in.
Boeheim on Friday:
“That’s all I can say. There is an investigation going on which I fully support because we all need to know as much as we can what happened.”

I believe Coach Boeheim’s contrition was genuine. His Friday press conference went a long way to reverse the damage from his previous statements. As an SU alum, I was glad to see it. As a rookie sportscaster in 1980, Coach Boeheim was considerate and respectful to me. It was a genuine kindness I have not forgotten.

Ultimately, the coach’s fate will be decided on what the investigation uncovers, namely, did he have any knowledge of what happened, and even if he didn’t, how was it he didn’t know on his watch? For now, those questions remain unanswered. But for the moment, he remains doing what he does best, coaching the Orange.

Note: The writer, a former TV anchor and adjunct Siena journalism professor, received his master’s degree in public communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University in 1979.
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