Sunday’s news that Syracuse Orange coach-in-waiting was taking the head job with the Washington Huskies was met with some initial panic (at least among SU fans).
If Hopkins was leaving, did that mean Jim Boeheim was staying longer? Is this going to hurt recruiting? What happens when Jim does eventually retire?
To answer those: Yes, Boeheim will be around past this coming season (as we always sort of figured). No, it doesn’t appear the 2017 class will be affected by this move (Hop wasn’t the primary recruiter for any).
But that last question is no simple one. It has plenty of nuance, guesswork and far more uncertainty than the rest.
While Syracuse’s own announcement failed to list out the length of Boeheim’s extension, Adam Zagoria reported (via a source) it was through 2021-22. Should you assume that’s the timeline, that would put Jim at 77 when that season’s over, and would have him on the sidelines for another five seasons now.
A lot can happen between now and then, but from here, the options for the Orange basketball program are as follows:
- Work with Boeheim to coach out the length of the contract
- Let Boeheim call it quits whenever he wants between now and 2022 (most likely)
- Promote Adrian Autry at some point (coinciding with Jim’s retirement)
- Hire an outside coach once Jim’s retirement timeline is finalized
- Bring Mike Hopkins back the second Jim decides he’s done
Now, some of those options can be folded into one another. But those, in a nutshell, are the moves Syracuse has left to make. Boeheim’s timeline, whatever it may be, dictates everything else.
As Sean mentioned on Twitter yesterday, Adrian Autry’s actually the move everyone keeps forgetting about. Autry started coaching in college under former Virginia Tech head man Seth Greenberg, then came back to his alma mater in 2011. He’s been an assistant at SU since then, and received an associate head coach title just yesterday. He’s become a better recruiter each year he’s been on campus, and could potentially be ready to jump into the top job himself.
If he is, then you can eliminate the Hopkins return speculation. If not, then move onto the distinct possibility that the long-time SU assistant could head right back to the Orange when Boeheim retires.
While Hopkins has a six-year deal at Washington, any exit fees or penalties are likely to de-escalate over time. So if he coaches the Huskies for three years and then leaves, the penalty for doing so is significantly less than it would be in year two. In year four or five (if Boeheim coaches that long), that dollar amount sinks even further. If Syracuse -- one of college basketball’s 10 biggest brands -- wants Hopkins to come back and he wants to do so, he’ll be back at the Carrier Dome.
Without any knowledge of how all of Sunday’s announcements occurred, it would seem very likely that the timing was very much coordinated on the part of Hopkins and Syracuse athletics. No one could give Hopkins a sure-fire answer about whether he’d be taking over as the Orange head coach for 2018-19. So rather than try to push Jim out, he talked to SU about honing his craft elsewhere. Then SU extended Jim to create an image of stability. Crisis, effectively, over.
For Syracuse, this is actually a much better situation than the nine-game interim stint from last year. Now, we get to watch Boeheim leave on his own terms, while giving Hopkins a real chance to create his own program outside of that shadow. If he comes back to the Orange at some point, he’ll be far better off for that experience than if he’d been handed the machine Jim built without any real shot to run his own show.
The option that no one wants to consider is the one where SU goes outside the “family” to hire its next head coach.
While Boeheim’s been here forever, his story -- from walk-on with the Orangemen to assistant to head coach of over 40 years -- is the exception, not the rule. It would be great if an alum could continue that sort of career arc, but these are different times than when Jim started as head coach. Syracuse could very well be looking outside the walls of the Melo Center for the next coach.
We could toss names around all day. But a few worth thinking about at this very premature (and potentially unnecessary) juncture:
Dan Hurley, head coach, Rhode Island: Hurley’s a New Jersey guy and has risen pretty quickly up the ranks. In his fifth year at URI, he led the Rams to the A-10 title and an NCAA Tournament berth. They nearly upset Oregon on Sunday to get to the Sweet 16. He’s young (44) and bringing him in could be a recruiting coup.
John Becker, head coach, Vermont: Becker’s another Northeast guy (Connecticut), who rose quickly and could still have higher to climb once he lands a more high-profile gig. Since he took over the Catamounts in 2011, the team’s won at least 20 games each year. Vermont plays a fun style, and one that could be interesting to see carried over to a program with more access to talent.
Tommy Amaker, head coach, Harvard: Amaker’s made a few stops with reasonable success, but the work he’s done with the Crimson is really what’s boosted his profile of late. Harvard made four straight NCAA trips under Amaker, including two straight second round berths. Like the next few names, he’s on the Duke tree, and will be getting a look based on that fact alone.
Chris Collins, head coach, Northwestern: It’s highly unlikely Collins departs something he’s building at Northwestern for something someone else (Boeheim) built at Syracuse. But he’s done impressive work with the Wildcats since arriving in Evanston, and his ability to get the most out of players is appealing.
Steve Wojciechowski, head coach, Marquette: “Wojo” served on Coach K’s staff for 15 years at Duke before getting the call up to the Golden Eagles. Marquette hasn’t done amazing things since he arrived, but they did make the tournament his year, and appear to be on the upswing again. MU doesn’t have the budget Syracuse does, and that would obviously help any coach.
Plenty more names we could toss out there, but these are the most glaring right now.
Which path do you think Syracuse takes in the coming years? Will Hopkins return? Is Autry the next coach-in-waiting? Could the Orange make an outside hire for the first time in over four decades? Share your own thoughts below.