The thought around Syracuse was that 2018 would be longtime basketball coach Jim Boeheim’s final season with the Orange, with former Syracuse guard Mike Hopkins taking over and leading the Orange into its next era.
Instead, Hopkins is now heading to the West Coast, and Syracuse might be facing a period of turmoil whenever Boeheim does call it a career.
After spending 21 years on the Syracuse bench as Boeheim’s assistant, Hopkins decided it was time to run his own program and jumped to the open job at the University of Washington, replacing the fired Lorenzo Romar as the head man in Seattle just one year before he was supposed to replace his college coach as the man in charge in central New York.
“The University of Washington is such a unique place, with a world-class university, an exciting basketball history and unbelievable fan support,” Mike Hopkins said in a press release. He went on to say that he believes that the team and his coaching staff can build something special in the Emerald City and he is excited to get started.
Despite his long association with Syracuse, Hopkins had long had his name linked to high-major jobs on the West Coast, mainly because of his roots of growing up in California. In 2014, he was a confirmed finalist for the Oregon State job, which went to Wayne Tinkle of Montana. A year before, he was in the same situation at Southern California, which hired Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast.
Those pursuits and off-court issues with the NCAA from Boeheim led Syracuse to name Mike Hopkins as its coach-in-waiting in 2015, which seemingly put a stop to other programs trying to pry him loose. However, Boeheim apparently never accepted that he would end his career after 2018, and Hopkins’ departure seemingly confirmed those suggestions.
“Most people feel like Boeheim doesn’t want to leave,” a Syracuse source told Sports Illustrated. “It was going to be awkward for Hopkins to take the job from his mentor knowing he didn’t want to leave.”
In Seattle, Hopkins takes over a program in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the nation, but one that has languished badly in the past six years under Romar. Despite having the potential No. 1 draft pick on their roster in Markelle Fultz, Washington finished 9-22 and 2-16 in the Pac-12, ahead of only Oregon State. It marked the Huskies’ sixth straight season without a trip to the NCAA tournament, a skid Hopkins will be expected to quickly reverse.
As for Syracuse, the Orange will enter what was thought to be Boeheim’s final season with no plan as to who would replace him. With Mike Hopkins now off to Seattle, there are no obvious names available in the near future for Boeheim’s successor, requiring Syracuse to either name a new successor or push back Boeheim’s retirement.
Readers, are you surprised that Hopkins jumped? What impact will he have on Washington? Will Syracuse be able to recover from losing its future coach? Sound off in the comments!
Commentary by Dan Angell