Syracuse Basketball: Orange Need to Ensure Mike Hopkins Is Next Coach

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Syracuse Basketball: Orange Need to Ensure Mike Hopkins Is Next Coach
USA TODAY Sports

For now, Mike Hopkins is the coach in waiting for the Syracuse basketball team.

What we don't know, however, is if Hopkins will be on the bench for the Orange when Jim Boeheim decides to call it a career. Hopkins has been a candidate for a number of coaching jobs in recent years, including Boston College and Marquette just this year.

Syracuse fans have an old friend to thank for the fact that Hopkins is still a Syracuse assistant in the first place: the Georgetown basketball team.

If the No. 2-seeded Hoyas had knocked out Florida Gulf Coast in the 2013 NCAA tournament, Hopkins might be the head man at USC today. But FGCU won, went on to the Sweet 16, spawned the "dunk city" phenomenon and earned coach Andy Enfield the gig at Southern Cal.

In a report by Mike Waters on Syracuse.com, Hopkins said he had multiple discussions with the athletic directors at USC about the position. Being a native of Southern California, Hopkins said he would have liked to have his parents, who still live in California, be able to see him work.

Mom and Dad would love to see me. They're older. It would be great for them. I'd love them to have that moment. And to create your own legacy. To create something that's never been done at a place where you feel like you could have success.

USC ultimately went with Enfield, which means Hopkins was a Cinderella tournament run away from getting the job for himself. After USC introduced Enfield, Boeheim said, per Waters, "Mike was, by far, the best candidate they had. Far and away, the best candidate they had.''

Because he is such a good candidate, Hopkins' phone will likely continue to ring. He's had success as a recruiter in Syracuse, helping to lure players such as Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick, Jonny Flynn and Michael Carter-Williams. Any school would love to have the ability to bring in players of that caliber.

So how can Syracuse ensure Hopkins waits it out and is there to take the keys from Boeheim? There's no way to know for sure, but Boeheim could at least keep Hopkins in the loop regarding what his long-term plans are.

Syracuse.com scribe Brent Axe has a theory that Boeheim will hang it up after coaching in the 2016 Olympics. By then, Axe contends, Boeheim will have finished his 40th season at Syracuse and likely have passed 1,000 career wins.

Hopkins told Waters the fact he was interested in the USC job doesn't mean he's looking to move on.

It's not about me being on a fast-track to my own program. It's never been about that. I want to be the best coach I can be. I'm around guys who can teach me to be that. I'd like to protect a legacy that Jim Boeheim has created. I feel like I'm taking over the family business. There's nothing more special and more honorable than to have that opportunity.

For now, those words are encouraging. But you never know what can happen, and as long as jobs are becoming available, Hopkins will get looks.

However, it's in Syracuse's best interest to do all it can to keep Hopkins in the fold. Orange fans don't want to imagine a world in which a Boeheim retirement is followed by a coaching search because Hopkins has moved on.

The goal should be, as Hopkins mentioned, to keep it in the family.

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