The Fine's household bustled with women and men, amateur models for the day, rushing to make their slot in the charity fashion show to support the Boys and Girls Club. Syracuse associate basketball coach Bernie Fine stayed quietly in the background picking up cups and plates left behind by the guests. He quietly smiled and chatted much as he has throughout his 35 years at the side of Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim as they built an elite college basketball program.
I was one of the amateur models in the Fine home that night. It was a comfortable wide open place. Everyone was welcome in every room. By the night's end a chill had fallen on the summer's air. Bernie was kind enough to offer my wife a jacket.
I can't claim to know him well, other than hellos here and there over the years. But, the story I share reflects a common experience among the greater Syracuse experience. Bernie Fine has long been the nice guy in the background who has sent Syracuse centers to the NBA, raised a nice family and helped his community be a better place.
That well established position in the community and the adamant defense from his friend and boss Jim Boeheim has left the Central New York fans struggling to believe the stories of the two former ball boys who are claiming they were abused. These are fans that endure sub-zero temperatures to pack the Carrier Dome 30,000 strong every winter.
A strong passionate fan base does not guarantee innocence when it comes to charges of sexual abuse, just ask the Penn State faithful. It does make it more difficult to believe allegations or to accept them as true before evidence and corroboration are presented supporting them.
That community sentiment raises the question about impartiality. The district attorney is a vocal supporter of Coach Jim Boeheim. The former police chief was a former Syracuse Orange player. That's the nature of this community. It is also generally a town that does what's right and delivers the truth. District Attorney Bill Fizpatrick prides himself on that.
This is a big deal. It needs to be thoroughly investigated. The community, the accused and the accusers deserve to be heard and receive a full explanation of the facts.
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