It’s only natural in sports to wonder who will be next. Who will be the next champion? Who will be the next star? After 45 years with Jim Boeheim at the helm, Syracuse fans have been wondering for decades who the next coach will be.
Boeheim insists he has no plans to retire, which is what makes the question of “when” such a complicated one. He is 75 years old with his son, Buddy, heading into his junior season at SU. Only until Buddy surged up the recruiting charts did the elder Boeheim reverse his decision to retire in 2017. That choice likely cost the program antsy Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins, who was named head coach-designate in 2015. He took the head coaching job at Washington, and five-star center Isiah Stewart, who followed Hopkins to play for the Huskies.
Mike Hopkins is a recruiting supernova. Most supernovae don’t wait 22 years for their own program. But for all that time Hopkins coached under Boeheim, and turned down offers to stay on the Hill. Eventually his patience ran out.
Boeheim’s longevity is one of the jaw-dropping details of his resumé. But it already costed the Orange one young coach, and might even cost them a second.
Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara, 36, was recently ranked 23rd on ESPN’s 40 best college basketball coaches under 40. Twenty-five of those coaches already have their own teams. The former SU sharpshooter joined Boeheim’s staff in 2011. He hasn’t shown public interest in any head coaching job despite being on the national radar. Maybe that’s because he knows the end is near for Boeheim. Or maybe he only wants to coach Syracuse.
McNamara is widely regarded as the best three-point shooter in SU history. His sophomore, junior and senior years represent the top three spots on SU’s list for most threes made in a single season. McNamara also holds the program record for career three-pointers with 400, 118 more than Andy Rautins behind him. But he is best known for tag-teaming with Carmelo Anthony in 2003, leading the Orange to their only National Championship.
He translated success into wisdom. The Orange backcourt was elite from beyond the arc last season. Boeheim knocked down 37% of his long balls. Joe Girard hit the third most triples for a freshman in program history.
McNamara’s coaching resumé transcends last year’s success. Alongside Boeheim, McNamara led the Orange to two Final Fours, and produced four NBA first-round picks.
Despite the accolades and national attention, McNamara likely isn’t going anywhere. Mike Hopkins was without a doubt the more tantalizing coaching prospect because of his recruiting wizardry. He recruited Gerry McNamara. Hopkins also landed Syracuse stars Paul Harris, Jonny Flynn, Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon.
The crown jewel of Gerry McNamara’s recruiting portfolio is 2022 five-star point guard Dior Johnson. He would be the highest-rated recruit the Orange have landed since McNamara’s teammate Carmelo Anthony. McNamara should be commended for the Johnson commitment, but reminded that his big-fish can still forego Syracuse. Outside of Johnson, McNamara doesn’t have much to show for his efforts on the recruiting trail. He brought in Bourama Sidibe, Brycen Goodine, who transferred from SU, and Joe Girard.
It is unclear if McNamara is the coach in waiting. Adrian Autry may be next in line as the associate head coach, but McNamara brings the youth and energy Autry, 48, can’t. McNamara can relate to the players more. The former sharpshooter is the perfect combination of past and future.
He might not be a recruiting savant, but SU’s rich recent history in the backcourt is proof that McNamara can develop players. Even though he could probably get a head coaching job tomorrow, it likely wouldn’t be a program glamorous enough to pull him away from the prospect of coaching at his alma mater.