Syracuse Basketball: Sorry Orange fans, but Mike Hopkins isn’t coming back to 'Cuse

Some 'Cuse fans want Mike Hopkins, who is out as Washington's head coach, to return to Syracuse basketball. That's unlikely.
Some 'Cuse fans want Mike Hopkins, who is out as Washington's head coach, to return to Syracuse basketball. That's unlikely. / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Word broke on Friday that former Syracuse basketball player and long-time assistant Mike Hopkins will not return as the head coach of Washington for next season.

This isn’t a surprise to me, as the Huskies have struggled in recent years. I do want to say that I’m wishing Coach Hop all the best.

Now, once it came out that Hopkins wouldn’t be retained by Washington, I saw a lot of comments from ‘Cuse fans hoping that he might return to the Hill.

While this is solely my opinion, I can’t envision that taking place, and I’ll detail why in this column.

Some Syracuse basketball fans want to see Mike Hopkins come back to SU.

A little context first. Hopkins is in his seventh season guiding Washington, which is a member of the Pac-12 Conference but will move to the Big Ten Conference this August.

While at the helm in Seattle, he has guided the Huskies to an overall record of 118-105 as well as a mark of 62-72 in league games, per a release from the Washington athletics department.

During his tenure, he has been named Pac-12 coach of the year twice. In the 2018–19 season, Washington went 27–9 overall, won the Pac-12 regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

However, in recent terms, the Huskies have struggled. Hopkins, an ace recruiter as a long-time assistant under former Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim, also recruited well at Washington, bringing him highly coveted prospects such as Keion Brooks Jr., Matisse Thybulle, Jaden McDaniels and Rochester, N.Y., native Isaiah Stewart, among others.

Hopkins was an assistant at the ‘Cuse for more than two decades. Over the years, he played a key role in the Orange landing top-flight recruits such Carmelo Anthony, Rakeem Christmas, Jonny Flynn and Gerry McNamara, among many others.

To say that Coach Hop is beloved by Syracuse basketball fans is a huge understatement, so I get why Orange Nation would love to have him back in Central York.

Okay, here’s why I don’t see Hopkins returning to the ‘Cuse. For one, if he wants to stay in coaching, I assume that he will want a head-coaching gig or at least an associate head coach position at a big-time school.

He’s not going to replace Adrian Autry as the Syracuse basketball head coach. In his first year, Autry has guided the Orange to 20 regular-season wins for the inaugural instance in a decade.

What’s more, the team’s associate head coach is Gerry McNamara, who himself is an excellent coach and a terrific recruiter. Autry isn’t going to demote GMac.

What’s more, the other two Syracuse basketball assistants are Allen Griffin and Brenden Straughn. Some fans like to criticize Griffin, who coaches the squad’s big men, but I think that criticism is unfair.

Look at what Coach Griff did with former Syracuse basketball player and All-ACC performer Jesse Edwards. If you’re looking at the current 2023-24 season, three of the team’s four centers have dealt with injuries or other illnesses, while the fourth center is taking a redshirt.

Plus, Griffin to me is a solid recruiter who has deep recruiting ties in the hotbed of New York City and elsewhere.

As for Straughn, it’s his first year as a ‘Cuse assistant, and he’s an ultra-strong recruiter in another key market for Syracuse basketball, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Additionally, let’s not forget that Hopkins is from the west coast. He was born in San Mateo, Calif., grew up in Laguna Hills, Calif., and won a state championship in 1987 at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif.

It will be interesting to see what’s next for Hopkins. Maybe he’ll coach. Maybe he’ll get into broadcasting, and I think he would shine as an analyst in the booth or in the studio.

I just can’t see Coach Hop making a trip back to the ‘Cuse, even if that’s what some Syracuse basketball fans want.

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