The Mike Hopkins head coaching rumors annually swirl this time of year. As we creep toward the tournament, there’s always a major conference school searching for the next great young assistant. And sometimes the arrow lands on Hop. Understandably so. He’s learned under a Hall of Fame coach for decades. Hop has proven his worth on the recruiting trail. He’s approachable and charismatic.
But he’s also ours.
I graduated from SU in ’01, and while working at WAER radio as a student we ran a segment called “Mike Check.” Before every basketball game one of the play-by-play broadcasters did a five minute chat with Hop. Every game. For a student radio station. And he couldn’t have been more respectful of young, nerve-racked broadcasters. So I spoke to Hop a bunch. And I remember thinking, “Man, he’s been an assistant here for a long time. He’s gonna get antsy and leave for another job.”¬†
That was 12 years ago.
In that time all Hop has done is enhance his nearly impeccable reputation around college basketball. He’s regarded as easily one of the top lieutenants in the nation, who has shown superhuman patience and loyalty.
So the fact Jim Boeheim confirmed Hop has spoken to USC ¬†about its job is not that all that concerning, right? Right?
From Jeff Goodman at CBSSports.com:
“Hopkins would be a home run for Haden and USC. Sure, he’s just an assistant coach – but he’s also the next Syracuse basketball coach. That means Haden would hire someone who left the opportunity to coach a top-10 program on the table. That’s called winning the press conference.
Hopkins is a California kid who graduated from prep power Mater Dei and would bring energy into a program that has been largely irrelevant for the last few years. Hopkins can recruit both coasts and has both played and coached under a Hall of Famer in Boeheim.
Would he take the job? Hopkins declined to comment when reached, but sources told CBSSports.com that he feels as though USC is a sleeping giant on the West Coast. That’s accurate – for the right guy. Hopkins would be an ideal fit, especially while the West Coast is ripe and vulnerable in recruiting circles.”¬†
Hop would make a great USC coach. He could win there, and win big. He could recruit, and be back home, and succeed at a place with much deeper athletic budgets than SU.
But if he’s lasted this long at Syracuse, why would he bolt now? We’re clearly in the twilight of Boeheim’s career. We don’t know if it’ll be one year, or two. But we know it’s not five. It may not even be three. So it’s like camping out for tickets for a week, only to head home when they start turning on the lights in the box office because you’re cold.
It doesn’t mean Orange Nation rests comfortably. There’s only so much waiting one man can do. Boeheim’s 68. I can’t imagine he isn’t giving Hop honest insight on how long he’s going to keep going. Then again, maybe Boeheim doesn’t know. And maybe the USC gig for a SoCal kid is pretty enticing.