Boeheim stays, Hop goes, SU has issues
If there was any doubt at all about who calls the shots at Syracuse, it was settled on Sunday. Jim Boeheim has decided he isn't going away any time soon and everyone else just has to live with it. Don't believe for a second that the legendary coach jumped to help the program he built when assistant Mike Hopkins decided this was the time to leave the nest and head to West. Hopkins went to the University of Washington because he knew his boss, his mentor , his coach had no intention of handing over the whistle and the first seat on the bench. It is named Jim Boeheim Court if you weren't paying attention.
Boeheim is a tremendous success at Syracuse by almost any metric you want to use to measure. He has won in 5 different decades, two different centuries and heck, two different millenniums . He has won before, during and after the Big East. Boeheim has a National Championship, 5 trips to the Final 4 and a Hall of Fame plaque. John Wooden was UCLA, but they had Walton and Lew. Bob Knight was Indiana University, but he played at Army. Dean Smith was the Tar Heels, but even Roy Williams can win big with that roster. Jim Boeheim is Syracuse. The University and the city. He played there and lives there and with all due respect, plans to die there. Do you really want to follow that?
Can there be anyone in college basketball more tied to Jim Boeheim that Mike Hopkins? He brought Hop to Central NY from California. And the Cali kid really never left. After a good, solid playing career, Hopkins moved into the coaching ranks and spent decades becoming Boeheim's trusted assistant. And when the Bernie Fine situation rattled Boeheim and the program, Hopkins not only had become the key recruiter of talent around the country, he was now the first assistant on the bench. Hopkins evolved into the coach in waiting, while still maintaining his reverence for the man who helped make his career. But that dynamic can only last so long and for Hopkins it was too long.
Where does this leave Boeheim and the Syracuse program? They were in the Final 4 a year ago. They were in the Final 4 in 2013. But even the most ardent SU fan knows the run a year ago was a bit of a fluke. Ok, maybe fluke is a little strong, but that team barely got in the Madness and was helped greatly by some upsets before knocking off Virginia. If you count the post-season tournament, Syracuse is 28-28 in the ACC over the past three seasons. That screams mediocre and firmly places the Orange as a mid-tier team in a conference still dominated by Duke and Carolina. Recruiting without Hopkins will not make the job of jump starting the roster any easier. Even Boeheim admits they were saved by a pair of 5th year Seniors. Can you go that route again?
So now Boeheim remains in total charge. Hopkins is gone and Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara each move down a seat. For almost a decade I have wondered what SU basketball will look like when Boeheim is gone and it was easy to just slip Hopkins name in that spot. But now what? He isn't coming back. Not now. The timing just won't work. And how attractive is the job now? Yes, come to Central NY, follow a legend and beat Duke and Carolina? Good luck finding that guy. But one report says Boeheim is signed until 2021. And maybe then he'll still be standing, snarky as ever, ready to sign another extension. Who is there to tell him no?