Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim’s tumultuous 2011-12 season at Syracuse University saw his long-time assistant coach, Bernie Fine, fired amid sexual abuse allegations and ended with an NCAA tournament ouster at the hands of Ohio State.
But Friday, Boeheim received some positive news, when a judge tossed a defamation suit filed against him by two of Fine’s accusers.
In November, when allegations about Fine’s alleged abuse first became public, Boeheim was asked about the the claims made by former Syracuse basketball team ball boys – Bobby Davis and Michael Lang. Davis and Lang both claim Fine – an Orange coach for 35 years – abused them more than two decades ago. Boeheim accused the two men of seeking riches in the wake of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. The remarks created a huge national backlash. Davis and Lang filed the defamation lawsuit in December.
Even after Fine was canned by the university, Boeheim said he was “proud” for having defended “a friend.”
“I think I owed him a debt of allegiance,” Boeheim said in late November, referring to Fine.
Although local Syracuse and federal authorities launched investigations of Fine, no criminal charges have been filed. Fine has maintained his innocence. He recently took a basketball consulting job for Israeli basketball team, Maccabi Bazan Haifi.
Supreme Court Justice Brian DeJoseph, a Syracuse undergraduate and law school grad, ruled Friday that Boeheim’s comments were opinions and not statements of fact, and are protected.
A third man who came forward to claim abuse by Fine, Zachary Tomaselli, has admitted he lied about his accusations against Fine. Tomaselli has been jailed on his own sexual abuse conviction.
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