Mike Hopkins and South Florida–Why Not?
There has been some discussion of Mike Hopkins, long-time Syracuse assistant, being a candidate at Boston College. The Confidential wonders why Hopkins would consider leaving Jim Boeheim’s side to take over a clear rebuilding project in Boston College. While Boston College is an underrated athletic program in both basketball and football, mostly due to its recent woes, this job simply does not seem like a wise move for Hopkins. Instead, the Confidential posits that Hopkins and South Florida would be a good match. Here is why.
First, Tampa. Florida. Not a difficult place to recruit people to geographically. If Hopkins could get kids to come to Syracuse, he can get kids to come to Tampa. It is East Coast-ish, which Hopkins knows. It is not a bad place to spend the rest of your coaching life, were that to be necessary. Snowy Boston? Snowy Milwaukee? Dreary other options in the North? Florida wins the geography battle.
Second, ability to win. Connecticut is the big brand in the American. But the race for #2 is wide-open without Louisville. SMU is having a surge under the 73-year-old Larry Brown (will it last?), and Cincinnati and Memphis both had nice seasons. Houston and Temple have potential. But South Florida is right there to make a move to join the elite in the American. Will it? Maybe. There are simply not the same obstacles. And if you win at USF, someone will offer you other opportunities. Being 25-8 at USF is better than being 17-15 at BC.
Third, if you are leaving Syracuse, leave it far behind. Hopkins would be able to leave Boeheim as an ally, not a conference foe. One could envision a Syracuse-USF scheduling alliance. Boeheim has done this with Eastern Michigan. USF will need the strength of schedule. Syracuse fans would not mind a reason to go to Tampa every few years. Moreover, by staying away from ACC foes, Hopkins would not burn the bridge and be able to return to Syracuse. Even if Syracuse would not begrudge Hopkins for a brief stay elsewhere in the conference, it is awfully hard for a coach to turn his back on the school that gives him the first job. Charlie Strong was NOT leaving Louisville for an ACC school and playing Louisville. Texas? Obviously.
Fourth, is BC a job that you can win at right now? BC is at the bottom of the ACC. It has a nice history, but not a history overflowing with richness. Boston is a good city for producing talent, but there are plenty of schools recruiting the area. BC is second to the Celtics in terms of basketball interest. Tommy Amaker has Harvard as a nice local destination for kids with the academics. Moreover, the ACC already has several Hall of Fame coaches and elite programs. Plus, a second tier of coaches (Williams, Larranaga, Bennett, Hamilton, Dixon, Brey) that few conferences have. College basketball is about coaching–Hopkins is good, but he is bottom 5 from day one in the ACC with a real tough slate of opponents ahead of him.
Fifth, from a longevity standpoint, conference realignment could loom again someday. USF has to be a possibility for the Big XII (we advocate for the Big XII to take USF/UCF and become a Texas/Florida football conference). If the ACC were to lose FSU somehow (Big 10?), USF could be a backfill also.
Finally, while USF has been a football school so far, it has the ability to become a basketball school. No NBA competition in Tampa. Florida is great, but FSU and Miami are vulnerable as #2 in the state. Larranaga is at end of career and Miami has never been stable. FSU is a football school without question.
While USF is far from a lock to be a hoops power, it is also not facing the daunting challenge that BC has to get back to being in the second tier of the ACC. If Mike Hopkins were to ask us (and if USF were to ask us, for that matter), we would suggest South Florida.