The Kinder Garden

With conflicting statements arising out of the suspension and reported dismissal of Drew Schifino from the West Virginia basketball team, we'll probably never get a 100% accurate picture of what transpired over the last few days in the Mountaineer basketball program.

Just like the events surrounding WVU's search for a new basketball coach, there are theories, at-odds statements, and conflicting information in the current story of Drew Schifino's suspension, and possible dismissal from, the Mountaineer basketball team. That uncertainty leads, of course, to speculation, ranging from reasonable to off the charts, none of which helps resolve the situation.

I don't profess to know everything that has transpired over the past week. Nor, in my opinion, should I. I understand that the media's job is to report on events, but I also believe that there's a line that shouldn't be crossed in doing so.

When that happens, as I believe it has in this case, it's almost certain that little good will come of it. And that has definitely happened in this case. Had both sides in the dispute been allowed some breathing room after the initial disciplinary action had been taken, perhaps the situation wouldn't have escalated to this point.

Defenders of the media will, at this point, cry that they were simply doing their job, and that trying to get comments from both sides is just part of that. And technically, yes, they are correct. However, I'd also point out that this isn't a professional sports situation, where the rules might be different. This involves a young man who, by his own admission, made a couple of bad decisions. Should the aftermath of that be spread over the sports pages, airwaves and fiber optic lines every day? Shouldn't a bit of discretion be part of a reporter's makeup? Should media honor requests to not ask quesitons about a certain topic in certain situations?

I realize that what happens at WVU is news, and that it's going to receive coverage. And I know that we are sometimes accused of just being a mouthpeice for the University. So, if it sounds like I'm taking WVU's or head coach John Beilein's side in this, you're mistaken. I, like just about everyone else, didn't hear the conversation that took place between Beilein and Schifino at their meeting. I don't know how hard Beilein tried to communicate with the Schifinos. I don't know what was said when Beilein reportedly talked with Drew's father.

What I do know is that Beilein has always been unfailingly straightforward with me. I've asked a question or two that he doesn't want to answer, and he has said, 'I don't want to answer that', and I've respected his decision. Maybe I didn't agree with it, but I understood his reasons for doing so, and I've never found him to be dishonest.

On the flip side, that doesn't mean I think the other side is lying, either. The Schifinos are apparently hurt and upset by the entire episode, and I can sympathize with that. I don't know Drew well enough to judge his character, but I do know that he is an intense competitor who wants to win and play well. His comments after the Notre Dame game were obviously ones that were made out of frustration. It's just too bad that those few lines, and with it, the whole situation, got blown out of proportion.

My guess is that the truth of the past week's events lies somewhere in the middle of everything that has been written and reported. It's difficult enough to have effective communication when both sides of any dispute are in the same room and talking, much less when it is being played out through the third parties of the media. And while I don't mean to blame the media for exacerbating the situation, I don't think the continual running back and forth between the sides to get their reaction to what the other side said helps any at all. In fact, it seems more like something that's done in junior high school.

'Did you hear what Jeff said about you?'

'He did, huh? Well, here's what I think about that.'

After a while, there's no way that the original situation, no matter how small, will be able to be resolved without bad feelings on one side or the other.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, and one that will likely draw hoots of derision from many writers and broadcasters, but I believe this situation was one that could have been better resolved had all of the followup interviews and comments not been made. Beilein tried to keep it that way, and even went so far as to request that the media allow the matter to be handled internally. Cynics will likely point out that perhaps Beilein didn't want any coverage because his actions weren't right, but again, that's descending into speculation.

That's not a jab at the Schifinos, either. They obviously felt as if their position needed explaining, so they did it via the media. I just wish they and Beilein could have gotten together to do it face to face, and without microphones or notepads present.

I know that in today's world of journalism, every little utterance is analyzed, hashed, and parsed until the original meaning and context of the words is often lost. And with the perceived "public's right to know", there's seemingly nothing that is out of bounds for the sake of the sensational sound bite or juicy quote.

However, fans who think they need to know every single thing that's happening should ask themselves this question: Is it more likely that this situation would have been resolved by now had the "he said, he said" scenario not been played out in public view? My guess is yes. And even if it had ended up with Schifino leaving the team, my bet is that the terms of departure would have been much more civil than they appear to be at this point.

To put it another way, did you ever see a dispute get worked out on the Jerry Springer show? When things go public, they usually get worse.

It's a shame that WVU's solid win over Georgetown has been lost in this mess, although even that win is being questioned by some pundits who don't even make it to all the home games. It's a shame that Schifino is being vilified by some as an out of control selfish bad guy, and that Beilein's honesty is being questioned. No one is going to come out of this situation with quite the same reputation as they had on January 6. And that may be the biggest shame of all, because many of those opinions will be based on either hearsay or speculation.

If Drew is gone, I will miss him. His fearlessness on the floor, his forays to the basket along the baseline and his acrobatic shots in the lane are sights that I was hoping to witness for another year and a half. Had these events been kept "in the family" I might have gotten that chance.

Kevin Kinder is the publisher of The opinions expressed herein are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Blue or the Blue & Gold News.

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