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The worst good news I’ve heard all year

Posted by Tom on May 15, 2007

Well folks, it’s official. Mike Hopkins has been named Syracuse basketball’s “head coach designate”, and will succeed Jim Boeheim in the throne. This is the worst good news I’ve heard all year.

Okay, okay, hold on. I love Mike Hopkins. He’s a smart, likable, charismatic guy who’s been as likable a coach as he was a player. He’s done some great recruiting for us in the last 5 years or so, and above all, the guy bleeds orange. He’s as loyal as they come.

Here’s my beef: this off-season was starting to feel like about the time when Mike would move on to a head coaching job at a mid major and test his wings with some real experience. He’s been here awhile, has a great reputation around the NCAA, and felt poised. I couldn’t have felt happier for Mike heading off in this scenario, knowing full well that the dude would be coming right back home from Baylor, Maine, Colorado St, or wherever he was at the time when Boeheim vacates the job around the year 2017 (he’s only 63!). Let’s face it – an opening that big and desirable doesn’t come along very often. He’d come back battle-tested in a variety of tough situations, hopefully have some tangible success to show for his 10 years as a head coach, and instill confidence and pride in cuse fans everywhere, even the cynical fat reporters who poop out this blog in their spare time.

Instead, we’re leaving this guy on the shelf to age out 10 more years as an assistant coach, essentially continuing to do the same job he’s been doing for the same team for what will turn out to be 20 years (he’s been on Boeheim’s staff for 12 already).

Does anyone else see a problem with this? Is there anyone who would argue that Hopkins is going to take the captain’s chair better equipped to lead a top tier program out of this “coach designate” scenario than if he went off and got some head coaching experience now? This is the college basketball equivalent of losing your virginity on the wedding night. Embarking a cross country trip with a newly minted learner’s permit. Ripping the training wheels off the bike before leaving the store.

I get why they did it. It’s nice for recruits to be able to commit to a program without worrying about a coaching change, and it ensures that Hopkins is locked into the job and won’t be wooed away by another team. But wouldn’t everyone feel just a little better if our next head coach had a few years to work some of the bugs out in another program? Let’s let our man leave Syracuse and fly on his own for awhile. He’ll come back that much better for it.

Caveat: If Boeheim is secretly planning on retiring in the next 3 years this all makes a lot more sense.

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3 Responses to “The worst good news I’ve heard all year”

  1. bobbyk said

    If Boeheim is secretly planning on retiring in the next 3 years this all makes a lot more sense.
    And if he isn’t this makes no sense at all. Louis Orr would be a far more logical choice considering the success he’s alread had as a head coach and his 10+ years as an NBA player-back when there weren’t 30 teams in the league.

  2. Josh said

    I have to disagree, I think this makes total sense even if it is for, say, 8 years down the line (when JB will be 70). Tom’s analogies, while highly amusing, are off the mark. The way this works is that Hop will slowly take on more and more of the responsibilities of the head coach. Jim will know when he’s got one or two years left, and at that point Hop will start to take over for real. In Eddie Sutton’s last year at OK St, he was basically the head coach in name only, Sean Sutton was the one running the show. Don’t worry about Hopkins not having “head coaching experience”; in JB’s last year or so Hop will be running the practices, maybe even some of the in-game huddles. Sure, it will still be different when he slides into the first chair, but it’s not like he’ll be completely baffled about what he needs to do.

    I am curious what this will mean for Bernie Fine, though. He could stay on the bench when Hop takes over, acting as the wise and wizened assistant (the Del Harris to Hop’s Avery Johnson, if you will). Or, he could step down a couple years before Boeheim does, to give Hop more room to grow into his role. The worst option would be for Bernie to leave exactly when JB does. Then Mike has to find two new assistants all at once, while moving his furniture into the big office.

  3. ajohn135 said

    Dude’s 63 years old and has a young family, so I doubt he’s coaching another ten years. Plus, Hop has been there 12 years already, and learning from JB for another few years will most likely be much better for him than guiding some hurting “Baylor, Maine, or Colorado St” team to the bring of an NIT berth every year. I like the fact that he’s staying, learning the in’s and the out’s of the conference, and continuing to recruit. He’s the best recruiter we have!

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