Mike Hopkins spoke with Oregon State officials last week about becoming the Beavers' next coach, and when that became publicly known Syracuse fans were understandably nervous.
Would the Orange lose their coach-in-waiting?
Would Jim Boeheim's successor be moving (way) west?
Turns out, the answers to those questions are no and no because, as you probably know by now, Montana's Wayne Tinkle will be introduced as Oregon State's next coach on Wednesday. So that's good news for Syracuse, undeniably. But it's also a positive for Hopkins ... regardless of whether he knows it now or not.
On some level, I get the anxiousness.
Hopkins is tired of being an assistant/ready to be a head coach.
He's been helping run one of college basketball's most consistently good programs for nearly two decades, and, in that time, he's watched lesser candidates land jobs that could've theoretically been his. Meanwhile, Hopkins is stuck waiting for Boeheim to retire so that he can move over a chair and actually run one of college basketball's most consistently good programs, and the problem is that nobody knows when Boeheim will, you know, retire.
It didn't go well.
I'm not sure the subject has been publicly broached since.
So, again, I get the anxiousness. But taking a bad Pac-12 job at this point would've amounted to a move filled with unnecessary risks and very little upside, and that's why missing out on OSU is a long-term win for Hopkins even if it might be a short-term disappointment. This is easy in my eyes. If you can push aside the immediate bump in salary that would go with leaving a spot on Boeheim's staff to run Oregon State, there aren't many sensible reasons for Hopkins to explore a move like this because, I mean, what good could come of it? Simply put, the possible payoff doesn't seem worth the obvious gamble.
Let's go hypothetical for a second, shall we?
Let's say Hopkins got the Oregon State job and was introduced tomorrow. He would immediately move his family across the country and take over a program that's widely considered to be one of the worst two or three jobs in the Pac-12. The roster is a mess, meaning he'd lose next season no matter what. And barring a huge upset relative to history, he'd probably never win anything of note when you consider that the Beavers haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1990 (and combine that with the fact that the Pac-12 is definitely bigger and probably more difficult to navigate than ever).
Good luck, right?
Now, if you're Tinkle, none of this should concern you much because you're the coach at Montana, and what other options do you have or will you get? Tinkle has made the NCAA Tournament in three of the past five years, meaning he's done about all you can do at a place like Montana. So, for him, jumping to Oregon State makes sense because he may never get another power-conference opportunity, and at some point, especially when you're approaching 50 years of age, you just take the million-dollar salary and do the best you can.
But Hopkins' situation is so different.
Again, all he has to do is sit tight and he's guaranteed to coach Syracuse someday -- probably at some point in the next five years (considering Boeheim will turn 70 in November). That means Hopkins, 44, is likely guaranteed to have one of college basketball's top jobs before he's 50 years of age, and risking that reality by taking Oregon State now would equate to a bad bet. If you fail like most Oregon State coaches fail, you're a damaged brand, and would Syracuse really hire a damaged brand whenever it needs to replace Boeheim? Perhaps. But nothing would be guaranteed. And if you're lucky enough to turn Oregon State around, all you'd be doing is positioning yourself to get the same Syracuse job you're already guaranteed to get the second Boeheim retires.
In other words, what is the point?
There would be an immediate bump in pay that would come with transitioning from Syracuse's coach-in-waiting to Oregon State's head coach, and I suppose that would be nice for anybody. But millions of dollars are in Hopkins' future regardless, and that must not be forgotten. So while I recognize the wait can seem like forever and understand how anxiousness can be a difficult thing for most men to suppress, the truth is that this weekend will go down as an awesome weekend for Hopkins' career.
No, he didn't get the Oregon State job.
But that's a blessing that really isn't even all that disguised.