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Slack-ing off: Is Syracuse men’s basketball a top-tier coaching job?

Yesterday’s conversation around who succeeds Jim Boeheim generated another conversation entirely.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Baylor vs Syracuse Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The TNIAAM crew is nearly always talking the latest Syracuse Orange sports happenings in the staff’s Slack room, and Monday was no different. After James addressed questions around who succeeds Jim Boeheim as SU’s head coach one day, it got us all thinking about how good the job is or isn’t without his name attached to it any longer.

The future without Boeheim is arguably the biggest fear of all Syracuse fans, and it’s something we had to briefly reckon with for nine games back in 2015-16. It didn’t go well, and the only reason that fact is even mildly forgotten at this point is because that Orange squad wound up in the Final Four anyway. When the time comes for Jim to step away, this place will likely burn to the ground the day of his departure. It’s a future we’ve mentally prepped for, at least in theory.

But when it comes to hiring whoever’s next, what does Syracuse have to offer? And how “good” of a job is it really, when stacked up against the rest of the sport’s supposedly elite programs. We had a quick conversation about that, which we include below. Then John takes over again at the bottom to add some thoughts.

James: Agree with this. More so fans (versus pundits), but think that’s about right.

John: I think it’s at least a top 15-20 job, to be honest. Facilities, resources, fan base... Can we name 15 jobs that are better positioned to compete for a Final Four bid every year?

Kevin: It’s definitely top 15.

James: I just think college basketball is more about the coach. The Carmelo Anthony Center, Carrier Dome and ACC are big pulls. But what happens once Boeheim leaves? What is Syracuse basketball without him? What’s stopping someone from wanting to take, say, the Clemson job over Syracuse? Not saying Clemson is better than ‘Cuse right now. Just using as an example.

Kevin: I’d counter by saying that averaging 23,000 is the reason why. Maybe it changes when Boeheim leaves but SU Athletics is men’s basketball first. Facilities at SU are a lot better than most P5s and that’s why the job won’t fall to pieces when he goes.

John: Agreed. Facilities suck (or at least aren’t on par with the Orange’s) in a lot of other spots. Been to arenas at Utah, ASU... even UCLA. It’s not much to look at compared to SU.

James: If we were college basketball coaches though, would SU be among the top 10-15 places that we’d want to coach? It wouldn’t be for me.

Kevin: Oh buddy you’re going to have to defend that one.

John: From a location standpoint, no. From a cost of living, tradition, fan support and resources perspective, absolutely.

I guess the bigger question as we start moving into millennials being head coaching candidates is gonna be “where do you want to live?” maybe, versus “where do you want to coach?”

Steve: Literally everything but “living in Syracuse” which I can confirm is not nearly as bad as some people seem to think, makes this program an easy top draw.

John: I agree. Not knocking living in Syracuse a ton here. Just compared to the big cities you can coach in instead.

Steve: Right, plus if you can pull off being successful here, it’s basketball first enough that you’re a god.

John: I mean, John Beilein just passed up living in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the illustrious metropolis of... Cleveland. So location still low on the list for older coaches.

Kevin: Let’s face it, mansion on a lake in your off-season isn’t something you can do in most places. You can at Syracuse.

James: In and of itself, if we ‘re just focusing on history, money, fan support and not taking into account location, weather, family, cost of living, then I think SU is a top job. So I guess where we want to live is a separate conversation. But that’s now how life decisions work.

I spent a good portion of my life trying to get out of Syracuse. So maybe I’m too close to it. That said (in a long, running list of self-contradictions) I would not rule out moving back at some point. So maybe I’m just irrational to begin with. But I Just don’t think Syracuse would be among my top 15 desired places to coach college basketball.

Andy: Right, here’s the deal — If you’re gonna give a coach full control of the program, make millions while spending thousands and have top-notch facilities, they’re happy Syracuse is tough to live in but easy to recruit for basketball. Because the coach can go “you’re here for one winter then you’re in the NBA. And while you’re here, you’re rockstars.”

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

(John, taking back over here) That was the basic gist, though we never really determined where exactly Syracuse falls in terms of the original question. If I had to guess, the top 20 jobs are a mix of the following, in no particular order:

Arizona, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oregon, Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, Villanova, Virginia.

Keeping in mind that this is not ranking programs, but the jobs themselves, you move non-P5 programs Villanova and Gonzaga to the back of the line just because of how the resources shake out. A&M, Oregon and Ohio State are here for money reasons, mostly, as is Texas. Arizona’s ability to recover from the FBI-related issues could either keep them around or knock them out completely. Virginia’s probably too “new” to this list to prove they can maintain something after Tony Bennett (whenever that may be).

Of the names left, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan State and North Carolina are the only clear-cut better jobs (before you say anything about the Terps, their local access to DMV recruits is very important). Louisville’s probably a push today, as is Michigan, depending on who they hire now that Beilein’s left. I think Syracuse could hire someone better than Mick Cronin, so we may actually be a better job than UCLA at this point. Florida is a cut above that “money” group in the previous paragraph, but I think we could make a better hire than the Gators as well.

Even knocking us down a few pegs just because, that still puts us around the top 10-12 jobs at worst. Maybe I’m being delusional, but I simply can’t find a large enough collection of programs with consistent success, large fan bases, great facilities and a lot of resources to knock us back any further. Can you? Honestly curious where fans see the job when stacked up against these other names. Share your own thoughts below.