SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — His top assistant missing from the bench, coach Jim Boeheim tried to keep his team focused on basketball, not scandal.
It seemed to work. The Orange had an easy day on the court, even as their program was still trying to come to grips with molestation allegations against assistant coach Bernie Fine.
Playing for the first time since Fine was accused of sex abuse, No. 5 Syracuse romped to a 92-47 win over Colgate on Saturday, capping a tumultuous week with a 40-minute break from the lurid headlines swirling around the team.
Syracuse placed Fine on administrative leave "in light of the new allegations" that he molested two former ball boys for years. City police are investigating, while Fine has dismissed the allegations as "patently false," expressing confidence that he will be vindicated.
Fine's usual seat by Boeheim was left vacant. This is Fine's 36th season working for the head coach.
Boeheim again defended his friend against the claims.
"I've been friends for 50 years with coach Fine," he said. "That buys a lot of loyalty for me, and should."
At the Carrier Dome, a subdued crowd came to watch hoops, not make protest signs or chant for the absent coach. While 21,084 fans dutifully dressed in orange, making the scene like any another Syracuse basketball game, troubling issues still loom large.
Both of Fine's accusers are now adults. Bobby Davis, now 39, told ESPN that Fine molested him beginning in 1984 and that the sexual contact continued until he was around 27. A ball boy for six years, Davis told ESPN that the abuse occurred at Fine's home, at Syracuse basketball facilities and on team road trips, including the 1987 Final Four, when the Orange lost to Indiana in the national championship game.
Davis' stepbrother, Mike Lang, 45, who also was a ball boy, told ESPN that Fine molested him starting when he was in fifth or sixth grade.
Syracuse said it conducted its own four-month investigation in 2005 when the allegations first came to the school's attention, including interviews with people the accuser said would support his allegations, but all of them "denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct" by Fine.
There were no signs of Davis or Lang when AP reporters stopped by their houses on Saturday. At Lang's Constantia Cove Diner, a worker locked the door and yelled "Closed!" when reporters and a photographer approached the door, even as an "Open" sign sat in the window and customers ate at the counter.
Lang's house, which is on the market for $74,900, stood as a tribute to Syracuse hoops. Stickers were scattered over windows; basketballs, beer mugs, a clock, PEZ dispenser, and a plush mascot doll rested on the windowsill; a Gerry McNamara jersey also hung in the window. There was even a foam orange finger, signaling Syracuse is No. 1.
At Fine's house, three cars were parked in the driveway but no one answered the door.
Orange center Fab Melo honored Fine by tapping his empty seat during the game
"He treated me like a son and I treated him like a father," Melo said, his voice filled with emotion. "Of course, we miss him. It was different to be on the bench and don't see him there."
Fine was listed as associate head coach in the game program and his photo and bio remained. Former Syracuse star Gerry McNamara filled in for him. He played on Syracuse's 2003 NCAA championship team and was a four-year starter for the Orange.
"I think of Bernie Fine as a role model, a mentor and a very dear friend," McNamara said. "When a friend tells you something, I've always been taught to take your friend at your word. When they need you the most, you stick by their side. For right now, I'm with Bernie. Hopefully, this can pass pretty quickly."
Boeheim addressed the players after the allegations were made public and told them to remain focused on basketball.
"Our program will be fine," he said. "It's been pretty good for 36 years. We've been through a lot of different things. We'll get through whatever happens in our program."
Fine missed Syracuse's 46th straight victory against Colgate, according to STATS LLC. The Raiders' last win over the Orange was a 67-63 triumph on Feb. 24, 1962, a few months before Boeheim enrolled as a student at Syracuse.
Dion Waiters scored 16 points, James Southerland had 14 and C.J. Fair 13 for the Orange (4-0).
The Orange rolled to a 52-19 lead at the break, highlighted by Southerland's seven straight points in 17 seconds.
"These players had nothing to do with anything," Boeheim said. "The coaching staff has to focus on these players, what they need from us, and that's what we're going to do."
Pat Moore led Colgate (1-2) with 19 points.
"We didn't talk about what happened at all. We tried not to focus on that," Moore said of Syracuse's troubles.
The allegations at Syracuse come on the heels of the child sex abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a scandal that cost coach Joe Paterno his job. While Sandusky's defenders have been scarce, if any, Fine has received an outpouring of support from the Syracuse basketball community.
Boeheim enjoyed the blowout, smiling at times and walking over to the stands to shake hands with a man he knew during a break.
The Orange now move on to New York for the NIT Season Tipoff semifinals — with their longtime assistant left behind.
- Jim Boeheim