SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Syracuse Orange men's basketball program lost their top assistant in Mike Hopkins on Sunday. Hopkins was much more than an assistant coach, however. He was the lead recruiting assistant as well. How does this impact things for SU going forward?
Syracuse has three players committed in 2017. They are point guard Howard Washington, wing Oshae Brissett and power forward Bourama Sidibe. According to what we are hearing, Hopkins departure is not expected to impact the status of any of the three. Brissett and Sidibe have both signed their letters of intent, meaning SU would have to release them if they wanted to look elsewhere.
Washington has not signed, as he just committed within the last week. Despite Hopkins involvement in his recruitment, Washington has always wanted to play at Syracuse. This should not impact him at all.
Syracuse is also still targeting Eric Ayala, Chris Duarte and Slovakian star Marek Dolezaj. The primary recruiter for Ayala is Gerry McNamara. The primary on both Duarte and Dolezaj is Adrian Autry. Whether or not each ends up with the Orange will not be tied back to Hopkins departure.
In fact, Ayala told Scout that it does not change or impact his interest in Syracuse at all. Ayala is still decided whether or not to reclassify from 2018 to 2017.
2018 Class and Beyond
This is where Hopkins departure will be felt. Hop has done a really nice job of recruiting New Jersey and New England for Syracuse. No doubt he will use those ties to try to bring some talent out west. So Syracuse has to use a different coach in those areas now. Hop did have great relationships with some of the best programs in those areas.
That said, Autry, McNamara and even Boeheim himself recruit players in those areas. It is the long standing relationship with Boeheim that will keep Syracuse as major factors.
That means 2018 players such as Naz Reid, Jahvon Quinerly and David Duke, among others, have to be reassigned within the coaching staff. The good news is there is enough time to do so and still be factors in their recruitment.
Who Replaces Hop?
The most likely scenario is that both Autry and McNamara move up on the Syracuse bench. That means Autry is in Hopkins previous role and McNamara becomes the new Autry, so to speak. There is, however, still an opening as an Orange assistant.
Who makes the most sense?
There are a few candidates that immediately come to mind. First is Allen Griffin, currently an assistant at Dayton. Griffin was an administrative assistant for SU for two years starting in 2003. Since then, he has been an assistant at St. Francis, Providence, Hofstra and Dayton.
Eric Devendorf could simply be promoted from assistant strength coach to a full-time assistant. Devendorf wants to get into coaching, and this would be a great opportunity for him.
If Boeheim were to look for someone without Syracuse ties, does it make sense to go the AAU route for recruiting purposes? Mike Mennenga is currently an assistant at Oregon but has a lot of connections to Canada where SU currently recruits well. Tony McIntyre is a well respected AAU guy and is Tyler Ennis' dad. He would be an interesting hire.
Tim Buckely has been the top assistant under Tom Crean at Indiana since 2008 and has helped bring in five McDonald's All-Americans in the past six years. With him out of the job, he would be an interesting hire.
Former Orange forward Ryan Blackwell is currently the head coach at Liverpool high school. He wants to get into college coaching, and is a smart basketball mind. He would be an intriguing hire as he is young and played under Boeheim.
Patrick Beilein is currently the head coach at LeMoyne and comes from strong coaching bloodlines. He has done a nice job early with the Dolphins. He is very young, but makes some sense.
While losing Hopkins is certainly a hit for the program, it will not cripple. Syracuse needs to find a suitable replacement. Let's keep in mind, most of the recruits ultimately come to Syracuse to play for a Hall of Fame head coach. That has not changed and should allow recruiting to stay at a high level.
That said, the job that assistants do cannot be understated. This hire is an important one.