Last night's episode of Last Week Tonight featured the epic NCAA takedown we've all been waiting for by John Oliver. If you haven't watched it yet, please make some time and do that. Then, make sure you tweet #SoybeanWind at your earliest convenience. That'll make more sense after you watch...
Watching the video, I was reminded of something I thought about over the weekend that made me realize the John Oliver/Daily Show dynamic provides Syracuse Orange basketball fans with a real-world example of how timing is everything...and how that doesn't always work in everyone's favor.
Last week, when I was on ESPN Syracuse, I compared Mike Hopkins' nine-game audition for the head coaching job next season to the stint Oliver had as guest host of The Daily Show back when Jon Stewart left to film his movie. Oliver did such a great job filling Stewart's shoes, that he was soon offered his own show by HBO. At the time, we didn't know Stewart was nearing the end of his run as host of The Daily Show. Oliver wisely took the bigger role (and bigger paycheck).
Recently, we found out that Stewart is in fact moving on and opening up a prime hosting gig for someone to take over. The first person that came to mind when it happened was John Oliver. He's done it. He's proved it. He'd be perfect.
But it's too late. There's no reason for Oliver to go back to The Daily Show. He's got his own show now. He's getting paid HBO money instead of Comedy Central money. He's arguably impacting discussions on a bigger scale than The Daily Show. He only has to crank out one show a week instead of four. And he has the kind of autonomy that comes with hosting a show you created in your own image instead of going back to TDS where he'll constantly be compared to his predecessor.
The Daily Show would probably kill to have Oliver back. He was groomed for the position and is one of only a handful of people out there that anyone thinks can step into the role and really "get it" the way Stewart does.
All of this is a way to say that the same situation could befall Syracuse Basketball, depending on how those nine ACC games play out in 2016.
Remember, it's not just that Jim Boeheim isn't allowed to coach the first nine ACC games of the season. He's not allowed to even have contact with the program. For the month of January, Jim Boeheim is no different than you or I. It is quite literally Mike Hopkins' Show.
There are so many scenarios that could play out over those nines games and it's folly to try and get too worked up about any of them. Almost certainly, whatever happens during those nine games will be blown out of proportion. Hopkins will either get too much credit or too much blame. Still...what if?
What if Syracuse goes 9-0? What if the Orange beat some nationally-ranked teams like Duke or Viriginia, on the road no-less? What if the team looks better in those nine games than they did in the previous ones? What if Boeheim returns and the team falters?
Again, all hypotheticals, but here's the rub I think is important. Let's say that Boeheim does not, in fact, make some kind of pre-retirement announcement before or during the season. Boeheim's stubborn enough to stick around even longer than previously expected now out of spite to the NCAA and "The Evil National Media." It wouldn't shock me if he had plans to retire next year but now fully intends to stick around because "who the hell are they to tell me I'm done?"
Anyway, so let's say Boeheim has no plans to retire. Hopkins goes out there and makes headlines for the way he runs the program over those nine games. The season ends. Now, all of a sudden, Hopkins is a hot commodity. Those concerns about him being coach-in-waiting? That doesn't seem quite as vital because, let's face it, he's good enough to take a chance on. Plus, Boeheim's refusal to retire is a sign that Hopkins shouldn't wait around.
It's not like Hopkins will turn down overtures. We all know he's be gone by now if it were up to him. So here he is in a situation where he has proven he's more than capable of running a major college basketball program. You wouldn't want to take a look under the hood if you needed a head coach for 2016-2017? Of course you would. And he'd listen.
Therein lies Syracuse's possible conundrum. You didn't require Boeheim to make an official plan. You watched as Mike Hopkins proved his worth. And now you're unable to do anything as other programs easily poach him from you, killing your succession plans and throwing the Post-Boeheim Era into doubt at a time when the program is vulnerable.
Again, so many hypotheticals and what-ifs are at play here. But I do think it's worth a consideration. Even if you love Boeheim and want him to coach for as long as he pleases, you have to think about the future. Maybe Mike Hopkins is ultimately the answer and maybe he's not. However, knowing that he's going to get the rarest of rare opportunities for a college coach, a month-long audition for the entire nation to watch and judge, you better be ready to deal with the fallout if he does well.