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The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program has tried to have its cake and eat it as well. Since 1996, former Syracuse guard Mike Hopkins has been an assistant coach at his alma mater and he’s become one of the better basketball minds in the nation. And although that Jim Boeheim is entrenched as the head basketball coach at Syracuse, Hopkins has had his in hand in the dealings of the program. Hopkins has been Syracuse’s main recruiter which has led to the likes of C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams joining the program. In 2007, Syracuse named Hopkins as the head coach in-waiting to one day replace Boeheim as a way to convince him to not leave Central New York. Hopkins has gone on to be a good soldier as he has helped Syracuse remain as one of the top basketball programs in the nation which included trips to the Final Four in 2013 and 2016. However things have changed recently for Hopkins, Boeheim, and the Orange.
On March 19, a bombshell was dropped in the college basketball world when Hopkins agreed to become the new head basketball coach of the Washington Huskies. The move by Hopkins came as a shocker since Boeheim was expected to retire in the next year or two. However Hopkins who is a West Coast guy as he is from Laguna Hills, California, now has an opportunity to run his own program in the Pac-12 Conference, while leaving Syracuse to pick up the pieces.
Hopkins’ departure is a huge blow for Syracuse as the school had it all mapped out for him to succeed Boeheim. And now with Hopkins at Washington, Syracuse and Boeheim worked out a contract extension past next season. However the departure of Hopkins still leaves a huge void recruiting wise as the Orange look to keep up in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
After Syracuse finished second in their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they have not finished higher than eighth ever since. The Orange were on probation in 2015 which hurt them on the recruiting trail and the last thing that they can afford to do is fall further behind the likes of the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils within the conference.
Syracuse found themselves in a very tough situation as typically when the head coach in-waiting tag is attached to an assistant, within a few years that person will take over the reigns. However in the case of Syracuse, they wanted to keep Hopkins, but it could have been a public relations nightmare had they forced Boeheim out of the door.
But now it is time to play the waiting game as we’ll have to see how things will work out for Hopkins with Washington, and if Boeheim does step down soon, would he come back to Central New York in order to assume the post that he was groomed for?