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SU Basketball: How We Met Syracuse's Next Basketball Coach

Jim Boeheim, contrary to belief, didn't coach at Syracuse forever. Replacing him with Mike Hopkins, however, was quite the story.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports


And, kids, that's how Syracuse met its next basketball coach.

The end.

"Wait, what? That's the end? How long did we have to sit here and listen to this story, the turns and twists, the random people introduced for no apparent reason other than to fill time, and THAT'S the end?"

Well, yeah, that's the end, Syracuse finally ended up with Mike Hopkins as its basketball head coach -- a story a few decades in the making. What you didn't like it?

"Well, I mean, it seems like the story should have been called "How Mike Hopkins Became Syracuse's Basketball Coach," right? Because the next coach after Jim Boeheim wasn't Mike Hopkins. It's like, why tell us this story for what seemed like nine years to gloss over "Syracuse's next coach" and have the climax really be how Hopkins was the "one" all along?"

Boy, where do I feel like I've heard this argument before? Seems like there was a popular CBS show that...

"What's a "CBS," dad?"

Um, never mind, kids.

Back to my point: the candidates and the man that would be head coach before Mike Hopkins are just as important to the story as Hopkins himself. Without those other coaches who have all now come and gone, well, Hop may never have ended up at Syracuse and Syracuse may never have been ready for Hop. You know what I mean?

"Yeah, I get it -- every door shut a window opens, or some crap like that."

Yes, that's right and watch your language. You're Syracuse University educated, not some Clampett from Georgetown.

Anyway, remember when Hopkins left Syracuse? It was probably one of the strangest times in the history of SU hoops. On one hand: Syracuse was a perennial top-10 power with some of the nation's best recruiting classes. The Orange were winning 25-plus games a season, were practically a lock for the Sweet 16 at least and were churning out lottery picks like old people in front of you at the grocery store. On the other hand: There was that whole Bernie Fine scandal; weird academic suspensions for star players; and the whole "2014 off-season."

That's the spring when Tyler Ennis, this fearless freshman point guard, declared for the NBA draft. Then Jerami Grant decided his time to move on to the next level had come, too. Without Ennis and Grant Syracuse was thought to be looking at a possible NIT team in 2014-15. Still, there was plenty of talent on the roster -- both returning and incoming. That '14-15 season was probably going to be a little rough, but the future was still bright.

Then...the almost unthinkable happened. Hopkins decide to bolt to become the head coach of Marquette Boston College Cal Berkeley "Whatever University or College." And that's when everything changed.

"Dad, why are you telling us this all again? Didn't you say 'the end?'"


So, where was I?

Ah, yes, all of a sudden Syracuse goes from possibly its best run ever under Boeheim to complete chaos. Who would the school turn to once Boeheim retired? It was a legit question, a legit fear. Of course, Syracuse is a Destination job -- one that could attract just about any big time coach from across the country. But Orange fans, at least a lot of them, had this worry that SU was "SU" only because of Jim Boeheim. Basically, the theory was without Boeheim and without his clone, the program would slide into the abyss.

Now that's not the truth, obviously. Syracuse's standing in college basketball, its facilities -- the state of the art Dave Bing Center Presented by Fuccillos and the Carmelo K. Anthony Center -- are major draws for recruits and fans alike. But still, there was a palpable concern in Central New York that April day Hopkins said goodbye to Syracuse and hello to his head coaching career.

Strange days for a lot of the fan base.

But although we couldn't see it then, Hopkins leaving was really the best thing for everyone. He so clearly wanted to be a head coach. In fact, as I already mentioned to you kids, Hop was thisclose to leaving CNY for USC at one point . This dynamic of Hopkins being Boeheim's assistant had become complicated, there's no question about it. Every March or April Hopkins name was thrown into head coaching vacancies across the country. And while there was no discernible tension between the two longtime friends/co-workers, their relationship had to be...different.

Hopkins openly wanting to be a head coach, wanting to be the head man at his alma mater. Boeheim being the teacher, professor really, to Hopkins, the coach who built Syracuse and was, in equal parts, in his twilight and prime of his of career. Hop wanted in, Boeheim wanted him in, but just not then.

So, kids, I guess the moral of the story is that stories aren't always over just because you think they are over.

"Yeah, I've thought this one was over about 900 words ago. Also, does your timeline totally make sense?"

Damn it you kids are sarcastic, you must get that from your mom.

"Actually, dad, how did you meet mom?"

Oh, I don't know, at a bar or something.

Okay, so Syracuse watched Hopkins move on and become the head coach he always wanted to become. And Syracuse hoops, meanwhile, survived 2014-15 and then, with Boeheim still at the helm, bounced back to top-five status the following season. And by the time Boeheim retired he had taken another team to the Final Four and had gone out winning another gold medal with Team USA.

Sure, Syracuse hired someone else, directly after Boeheim's retirement, but the new guy did pretty good, didn't he? At some point I'll tell you the story of why he retired so early. But for now, just be happy Syracuse and Mike Hopkins finally got back together.

"So what's the point to all of this, dad?"

Besides blatantly ripping off the ending of a once kind of popular television show? Well, I guess the point is there is not a perfect ending for programs like Syracuse basketball (or for popular TV shows, for that matter). You think it's over when a legendary coach steps away, but the thing is, it can survive. Syracuse can survive without Jim Boeheim and even Mike Hopkins. The story goes on even when you think it's done. Yup, there'll be ups and downs, but SU hoops, kids, is always one helluva good story to tell at any time.