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Syracuse basketball: Has coaching transition affected recruiting?

Jim Boeheim’s time is up after next year. Has that hurt recruiting?

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina State at Syracuse
Syracuse assistant coaches Gerry McNamara and Mike Hopkins watch warmups prior to SU’s game against South Carolina State.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse has been fortunate in the past few seasons gathering early commitments from elite prospects. Whether it was Chris McCullough, Malachi Richardson or Matt Moyer, recruiting wasn’t something that fans necessarily worried about.

For the 2017 class, the Orange has commitments from Oshae Brissett and Bourama Sidibe. Both have stated the transition of coaches didn’t affect their decisions, but has it affected others?

“Yeah, I knew all that going in,” Brissett told Adam Zagoria. “That is not a problem with me. Getting one year with a Hall of Fame coach like coach Boeheim, it will help me in the long run.”

The Orange got in on Brissett at a good time. He had transferred to Athlete Institute (Canada) from Findlay Prep (Las Vegas), and immediately fell in love with the program. His official visit went as good as it possible can, which ultimately led to a commitment a few weeks later.

Zagoria points out in his New York Times column that rival coaches haven’t used Boeheim’s retirement as a negative recruiting pitch, perhaps because of the respect they hold for him.

However, the Orange have missed out on high priority recruits this cycle: Quade Green, Lonnie Walker and Brandon Randolph. Syracuse had been after Green for over two years, and he ultimately signed with Kentucky.

Green’s high school coach, Carl Arrigale, doubted Boeheim’s looming retirement had anything to do with Green’s decision to pass on the Orange.

However, another talented prospect — five-star Hamidou Diallo — feels differently about Boeheim leaving. “It’s just something to look into and pick the pros and cons of every school. Every school has a pro and a con.”

It’s funny Diallo would say that, mainly because he’s only going to school for one year — if at all. If Hamidou were to choose Syracuse, the transition would have no affect on his time in college. However, the talk of Diallo to the NBA out of high school has picked up drastically over the past month with top NBA executives scouting him almost weekly.

Other recruits have taken a different approach to Boeheim’s departure. Some want to be part of history.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at Syracuse
SU head coach Jim Boeheim looks on against Eastern Michigan in the second half.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Tyus chose Syracuse in order to play for Boeheim’s final teams and help him chase another national title.

For another recruit, all it took was a conversation with the Head Coach-Designate to make all his worries disappear.

“We had conversations with Gerry Mac about it,” Bourama Sidibe’s head coach Mark Taylor said. “And then Mike Hopkins actually came down and visited with Bourama and spent the time with him and had good conversations, so I think that was important.”

An important pipeline school for Syracuse — Roselle Catholic (N.J.) — understands what the Orange are doing and respects how SU has handled things.

“I guess the difference is that Mike’s now the lead and also on some level the closer,” Dave Boff, Roselle Catholic’s head coach said. “It used to be coach Boeheim would come in and towards the end and kind of finish the deal off.”

Class of 2018 five-star forward Naz Reid attends Roselle Catholic. Having a smooth transition process, especially with coach Dave Boff, is incredibly important. Another 2018 prospect, Kahlil Whitney, attends R.C.. He visited Syracuse earlier this season for a game.

The transition from Boeheim to Hopkins isn’t all that drastic. Hopkins has been here for what seems like forever. His nine-game stint last season didn’t go as planned in the W-L column, but can you really blame that on him? He was thrown into a situation where he had two days to get his team ready to face ex-Big East rival Georgetown.

At that time in the season, the Orange were still figuring out certain lineups and tendencies. And let’s not forget, Richardson struggled in those nine games — and came alive late in the season. If Hopkins had March Malachi vs. November Malachi, those four wins likely would’ve been six or seven.

Not to mention, from a recruiting standpoint, Syracuse divides it among the three assistants fairly evenly. Gerry McNamara and Adrian Autry have excelled greatly on the trail. Autry is responsible for landing Andrew White, while McNamara has continued to develop strong relationships with coaches from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

McNamara is one of the reasons Diallo is still considering Syracuse. The two have developed a strong relationship over the past year. And even though the Orange didn’t land Quade Green, McNamara has built a relationship with that program that will last for a long time. Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) will continue to develop players, and Syracuse will continue to be involved.

When Boeheim does retire (probably) after next season, Syracuse is in very good hands with Hopkins, Autry and McNamara. It will, however, be interesting to see the next addition to the coaching staff as roles are redefined in the new regime.