Syracuse Orange basketball coach Jim Boeheim addressed the media on Monday after it was announced former Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins had left the Orange to become the head coach at the University of Washington Sunday morning, initially throwing Syracuse’s coaching future in doubt.
Boeheim said he wishes nothing but the best for Hopkins, saying he couldn’t be happier that his longtime assistant will now have the opportunity to lead a program after working under Boeheim for 21 seasons.
“Mike Hopkins is like a son to me,” Boeheim said. “Anybody that thinks I wouldn’t want him to get what he wants, does not know me or does not know anything.”
Shortly after it was reported Hopkins agreed to a six-year deal to become the next head coach at Washington, Syracuse announced it had agreed on a contract extension with Boeheim to retain him past the 2017-18 season. Adam Zagoria reports the contract extension will run through the 2021-22 season.
In 2015, Syracuse and Boeheim announced the longtime Orange coach would retire after the 2017-18 season, and Hopkins would be promoted to head coach. While Boeheim admitted he joked about his exact retirement date in past years, he said he never had any plans on breaking that agreement and coaching past the 2017-18 season.
“At no time – let me make this clear – did I ever think I was not going to be done next year,” Boeheim said. “That never has entered my mind. And anybody that would write that, is writing fiction.”
With Hopkins leaving for Washington, Syracuse announced Adrian Autry has been promoted to replace him as assistant head coach.
Despite Syracuse’s struggles this season, the Orange missed the NCAA Tournament and finished 19-15 after losing in the second round of the NIT, and losing Hopkins to Washington, Boeheim said he believes Syracuse will have a great chance for a more successful season next year.
Boeheim specifically took exception to the criticism Syracuse’s 2017 class has received. The Orange have just three commits, all of who are rated just three stars: power forward Bourama Sidibe, small forward O'Shae Brissett and point guard Howard Washington. None of Syracuse’s three recruits are listed in ESPN’s Top 100.
“I think we’re in good position,” Boeheim said. “People think our recruits aren’t that great, well they didn’t think Hakim Warrick was great either. I like our recruits.”
In addition to defending his 2017 recruits, Boeheim also praised his young group of returning players. The Hall of Fame coach said he believes guards Frank Howard and Tyus Battle can develop into a formidable starting backcourt for Syracuse next season, despite Howard’s struggles and losing the starting point guard job to graduate transfer John Gillon this past year.
“I think we have the backcourt that we would have had this year, next year with another year of experience,” Boeheim said. “Tyus Battle has proved himself. Frank Howard has shown that he can do some tremendous things, and I’m confident he will have a Scoop Jardine turnaround, where people went from booing to cheering for him between his sophomore and junior year – I think that same thing will happen.”
While Syracuse fell far short of its lofty early-season expectations this past year, and its outlook doesn't like that bright for next season (especially after news broke that sophomore Tyler Lydon will reportedly declare for the NBA Draft), Boeheim reminded the media how well his team bounced back after a previous instance when it struggled and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
“In 2002 we went to the NIT,” Boeheim said. “I think you know what happened in 2003.”
Watch Boeheim’s full press conference below.
Syracuse Men's Basketball Press ConferencePosted by Syracuse Orange on Monday, March 20, 2017