Syracuse Orange men's basketball coach, Mike Hopkins.
A phrase we'll all have to get used to sooner than later. James Arthur Boeheim may not like being asked about his impending retirement, but, at 69 years of age, the Hall of Fame coach won't be coaching forever -- or will he?
Anyway, I got to thinking about Hopkins taking over the program again after reading this piece about the Cali kid turned would-be 'Cuse coach. Officially since 2007, unofficially for a little bit longer, we've all known that Boeheim wanted Hopkins to succeed him. Keeping control of the program within "family" -- something pointed out in the New York Times article. Hopkins has been with Syracuse basketball for essentially two decades, he knows Syracuse basketball.
So given that experience and his recruiting abilities, with Michael Carter-Williams being the most recent likely high draft pick originally brought to Central New York by the long-time assistant, and his familiarity I think fans, for the most part, are excited for the Mike Hopkins Era.
I am too. But...
I made this argument a million times on my radio show, and it's almost always seen as a knock on Hopkins, but it's actually bigger than him. Why limit your program? I hate the concept of "Coach In-Waiting." Teams across all sports have done this, not just SU, but why not open the search up?
May the best candidate win.
We have no real idea how Hopkins will do as a head coach (although given his time around Boeheim and his experience with USA basketball, I think he'll be very good). But other possible candidates could have actual head coaching experience on their resumes. Or, if the Syracuse search to replace Boeheim was to open, what if there is another top-flight assistant out there?
Hopkins is the candidate we all know, but the one we don't could be an even better fit. That's at least worth discussing.
Which really leads to a much bigger question: is Syracuse a "destination job"? There is no doubt that Jim Boeheim made Syracuse basketball. So is Boeheim so tied to the program's success that it would collapse without his handpicked protege taking over?
Would Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart or any other big time young coach or assistant coach be walking around with their cellphones at the ready, waiting for Daryl Gross, PHD, to call?
I think so.
Boeheim's work has made Syracuse basketball a name brand. The Carrier Dome, the 30,000-plus fans, the national TV, the Final Fours. Sure, the epicenter is in Central New York, hours away from New York City and smack dab in the middle of the snow belt, but this is basketball not football -- hoops is meant for the winter. Syracuse should be able to continue to attract big time talent and be able to continue its winning ways, even with a coach who didn't go to the university or doesn't have any discernible ties to it.
Boeheim has made Syracuse so big that its become bigger than Boeheim. Able to continue moving without him.
It's a little similar to what will eventually happen at Duke. Mike Krzyzewski is the best college basketball coach ever (sorry Mr. Wooden), but his days guiding the Blue Devils won't last forever either. Will Chris Collins come back from Northwestern, or will Johnny Dawkins leave Stanford to come home? Maybe Krzyzewski will tab Steve Wojciechowski?
Duke's a destination job because of Coach K though, right? Stevens or Smart would jump to coach at Cameron, wouldn't they?
Programs in any sport that have to replace legendary coaches are in an impossible spot. Do you pick an assistant or former player in hopes that the winning ways of the predecessor will continue, or do you open the search up? There isn't a clear blueprint to success either way, but doesn't it make sense to include as many candidates in the process?
Of course, Syracuse can't do that now.
Syracuse Orange men's basketball head coach, Mike Hopkins.
The school has signed on and pinned its basketball future on the Syracuse transplant somehow turned native. It's too late to turn back at the risk of alienating Hopkins. Which will be fine in the end, as Hopkins, I think, will find success. But it's certainly not a bad thing to wonder who else would want the job.
Syracuse Orange men's basketball head coach,_______.
And it's OK to wonder what that imaginary candidate would do with the job.