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Syracuse Basketball: Mike Hopkins' Interim Tenure Was Not a Failure

We have now completed the NCAA mandated Mike Hopkins tenure for the 2015-16 basketball season. Some see his 4-5 record as a failure. Let me explain why I think that's too superficial.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Not to open up old wounds, but remember Scot Shafer? Yeah, that really fiery, former head coach of Syracuse football? Back when the "Should we fire him or not," train was in full swing, Sean made a really darn good point.

There are two kinds of hires: Rebuilders & Continuity Coaches. Rebuilders have more leeway because they have to remake a bad program into a good one. Continuity Coaches has less leeway because they have to maintain the success a good team already has.

Now let's fast forward to when Jim Boeheim's suspension was upheld by the NCAA, but set to begin immediately rather than at the start of ACC play. Mike Hopkins, the official coach designate, was to take over. Much like Scot Shafer, Hopkins, when he takes over full time, will be a continuity hire meant to maintain the success of Syracuse Orange Basketball.

Hopkins' 4-5 record while at the helm these past nine games have led to at least one person calling the run a failure, for if nothing else, this reason:

Four wins against cupcake teams. Four losses in the games that matter. If you look at that, and only that, Mike Hopkins has failed in this stint as Syracuse's head coach.

While the full article does give some content to that 4-5 record and the all important Boeheim quote ("He's not coaching his team. He's coaching my team. They're used to my words and how I coach,") I genuinely believe that even if Boeheim was head coach, this team would still be in the same situation.


The front court simply isn't good enough. Everyone knows this. And it isn't for lack of trying. Syracuse was supposed to have a 6'9" forward named Moustapha Dagne for depth. That fell through. The backup plan is a pretty good center who can't play until next year. Jim Boeheim would have the same issues as Hopkins had in that Georgetown, Pitt, and Miami games.

Why else? Because the team is reliant on three. This was Jim Boeheim's plan because he doesn't think the team can score any other way. If anything, Hopkins was trying to find other ways by mixing in Frank Howard and really working on Malachi Richardson's game.

Finally, smart basketball people never thought Syracuse was going to be great this year. KenPom's predicted 18-11 with a .500 record in ACC play. All of that went out the window when the Orange shot the lights out in Atlantis. That 14th ranked team referenced in the original Hopkins article was the product of overzealous human voting rather than statistical analysis.

Overall, I don't disagree with the idea that the Hopkins run was bad. But to say that it was a failure, that the team would have done substantially better with Boeheim at the helm or even that Hopkins was a bad head coach are all too rash and emotional in my book. I think that we are in the midst of a transitional time for the program, and the NCAA's decision making only made it more rocky.

We're through to the other side with some scholarships back and a motivated Boeheim and Hopkins. If nothing else, that's something I'm ready to get on board with.