Men's Basketball

Jim Boeheim on Mike Hopkins: ‘He’s like a son to me’

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Jim Boeheim had nothing but praise for his protege, Mike Hopkins.

When Mike Hopkins told Jim Boeheim that he had “an unbelievable opportunity” at the University of Washington, Boeheim was only happy for his former player and 22-year assistant coach, Boeheim said Monday afternoon.

Hopkins accepted UW’s head coach position on Sunday afternoon, leaving Syracuse with a vacant assistant coach spot and a looming question about the program’s future since Hopkins had been named the team’s head coach-designate and planned to take over for Boeheim after next season. But despite the cloud of uncertainty that came with Hopkins’ departure, Boeheim was happy for him.

“I was so happy because he was happy. That was my only thought. Mike Hopkins is like a son to me,” Boeheim said. “… He’s meant a huge amount to Syracuse basketball and through the years.”

Syracuse’s season ended earlier on Saturday when it lost to Mississippi in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Only one season remained until Boeheim’s planned retirement. But once Hopkins left for the Huskies, SU Director of Athletics John Wildhack contacted Boeheim and offered a contract extension, both said Monday afternoon. They declined to discuss the terms of the contract.

The plan for Boeheim to step down after the 2017-18 season was announced by Chancellor Kent Syverud in a campus-wide email on March 18, 2015. About three months later, Syverud announced Hopkins would replace Boeheim.

When Wildhack was hired in July 2016, he knew it’d be part of his job to ensure a smooth transition from Hopkins to Boeheim. The 41-year head coach cooperated with the transition, Wildhack said, even though Boeheim said he didn’t want the initial three-year limit to be made public.

Prior to Hopkins leaving, Boeheim said his plan was “set in stone” that he’d retire after next season.

While the plan didn’t come to fruition, Boeheim and Wildhack are appreciative of Hopkins’ time with SU and wished him well on Monday. Boeheim disputed the idea that replacing a Hall of Famer would have been problematic for Hopkins.

“That’s what the normal perception is, but it’s not true if he’s good,” Boeheim said. “Mike is good. Mike would have done well here. I have no question about that. Because he’s good.”

In the past several years, Hopkins had been in the mix for several head coaching jobs, including the Southern California job in 2013, but didn’t land one that he wanted until the Washington opening.

While Boeheim served an NCAA-mandated, nine-game suspension last season, Hopkins filled in as the Orange’s interim head coach.

“I’d been preparing to be a head coach for 20 years,” Hopkins said after his first game as interim head coach. “That’s always what I wanted to be and I always visualized myself doing it.”

Now he gets the chance to fulfill his goal even though it doesn’t come at SU, like expected. Boeheim said he was glad for Hopkins to accomplish that regardless of Syracuse’s future being temporarily in question.

“He got an opportunity that’s a tremendous opportunity to build a program. I think that was appealing to him,” Boeheim said. “I talked to him two or three times today about things that he’s going and trying to do. We are like father and son in a lot of ways. I’ll be asking him things and he’ll be asking me things from now on. I think in his mind, this was a great new opportunity.”

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