Richard Drew, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Two men sued Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim and the school for defamation Tuesday, saying they were vilified as liars out for money after they accused his longtime assistant of molesting them.
Former Syracuse ball boys Bobby Davis and Mike Lang said they were molested by Bernie Fine, who has since been fired and has denied the allegations. A third man also has accused the 65-year-old Fine, who had been Boeheim's top assistant since 1976.
"It really hurt me to learn coach Boeheim had accused me of lying," Davis said, reading from a statement at a news conference after the lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court.
When the allegations surfaced Nov. 17, Boeheim staunchly supported Fine, saying the accusations were lies to capitalize on the Penn State child sex abuse case.
"The Penn State thing came out, and the kid behind this is trying to get money," Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "If he gets this, he's going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I'd say about $50 million. That's what this is about. Money."
And in an interview with ESPN, which broke the story, Boeheim said: "It is a bunch of a thousand lies that (Davis) has told. You don't think it is a little funny that his cousin is coming forward?"
Lang said that when Boeheim suggested "my little brother and I were lying," he "felt sick to my stomach."
University spokesman Kevin Quinn declined comment. The U.S. attorney's office is investigating.
Victim advocates reacted angrily to Boeheim's initial comments and called for him to resign or be fired. He later said he was wrong to question the motives of the accusers.
That's not enough, said attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the stepbrothers, and whose recent clients include a woman who accused presidential candidate Herman Cain of making unwelcome sexual advances.
"Boeheim's statements impugning the veracity and motivations of Mr. Davis and Mr. Lang were particularly disturbing given his 35 years of opportunity to observe Fine at close quarters, and at least seven years of opportunity to see Fine with Bobby Davis on trips, at practices, in Manley Field House and at games," Allred said.
Although Boeheim eventually acknowledged that he 'misspoke,' those words came too little too late," Allred said. "One of Syracuse's most respected individuals had already told the world repeatedly that Bobby Davis and Mike Lang were nothing but liars and out for money and nothing else.
"Boeheim has not suffered any consequences in his employment for using his position of power within the university to make these false, inflammatory and injurious statements about Bobby and Mike."
Boeheim softened his stance in the weeks since the accusations became public.
On Nov. 27, Zach Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, also accused Fine, and ESPN aired a tape in which a woman it identified as Fine's wife tells Davis she knew "everything" that was going on. After Fine was fired that night, Boeheim released a statement saying he regretted any statements he made that "might have been insensitive to victims of abuse."
On Nov. 29, Boeheim apologized, but said again he didn't regret defending his old friend based on the information he had at the time, adding that he never worried about his job status in 36 years.
By Dec. 2, he was far more contrite.
"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made," said Boeheim, who spoke slowly and paused frequently during a postgame news conference. "I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused."
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