Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim left a walk-on paralyzed today after snapping his neck during Syracuse's practice in preparation for the Final Four. Senior Jeff Tolleson is in intensive care at St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta and is not expected to ever be able to walk again.
"The guys are shocked right now," said the veteran coach. "Which is great, because in 24 hours or so they will move past that and be ready to play harder than ever in honor of Jeff."
Boeheim blew his whistle to stop practice this morning, gathered his team around him and then asked Tolleson to stand in front of him. The coach then grabbed the walk-on's head and quickly and sharply turned it, dropping the 6-2 guard to the floor.
"Rick Pitino has a huge advantage in the Final Four with his one kid breaking his leg," said Boeheim. "One of my jobs as a coach is to not cede motivational ground to a potential opponent. So I came up with this. In an hour or so of poking around on the Internet, I came across a way to snap someone's neck – but do it in a way that paralyzes them, not kills them. I thought killing a walk-on might be too traumatic for my good players to overcome."
Michigan head coach John Beilein, who will coach against Boeheim in the Final Four, says Boeheim's commitment to winning is what makes him so successful.
"A lot of coaches wouldn't paralyze a walk-on in hopes of gaining an advantage," said Beilein. "Many would, but some wouldn't. I considered having our team bus driver killed for inspiration, but I couldn't go through with it. Instead, I want to focus on us hitting the offensive boards against their zone."
There were also reports today that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino partially sawed through his player's leg so it would break during their Elite Eight game against Duke.
"My players are committed to win, and they will all make whatever sacrifices I ask of them," said Pitino. "That's all I will say about that."