Within the span of three months, two pillars of college basketball have announced their departures.
In April, North Carolina coach Roy Williams retired after a 33-year coaching career. The Hall of Famer won three NCAA titles with UNC and went 903-264 in his illustrious career.
On Wednesday, Duke HOF head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that the 2021-22 season will he his last, meaning he’ll have one more season to add on his all-time wins list record of 1,170 wins to go with five NCAA championships.
The last in the ACC Hall of Fame trio is Jim Boeheim, who after 45 seasons stands at 1,083 wins (or 982 if you ask the NCAA), and has one title to his name. He has made no announcements about his retirement, and there is no specific timeline for him to leave his post. But at 76 years old, there are far more seasons behind him than ahead.
When that day comes, who would be the best candidate to replace him?
There are certain criteria that any replacement would need to have:
- A strong connection to Syracuse as a player or coach (or both)
- A unique ability to recruit the northeast (and convince recruits to spend 1-4 years in freezing temperatures)
- The knowledge of how to effectively coach the 2-3 zone
- Be relatively young (can’t have a coach staying for 3 seasons and then retiring, like Rick Pitino)
Here are some candidates that fit some or all of these categories that could become the next head coach of Syracuse:
» Related: Here’s where Syracuse basketball stands with its 2022 recruiting class
The obvious candidates:
- Mike Hopkins: Hopkins, a scrappy forward for SU in the 90s, was Syracuse’s designated successor to Boeheim before he took the head coaching position at Washington. Since his arrival, he’s been a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, though the Huskies went just 5-21 in the past season. His recruiting prowess is well known, and he’s landed a variety of blue-chip recruits since taking over with the Huskies. But would Hopkins ever leave UW to come back to Syracuse?
- Gerry McNamara: McNamara had a legendary playing career, playing a huge role in SU’s 2003 national championship. Since joining the coaching staff in 2009, he’s become an excellent recruiter, most recently landing five-star class of 2022 wing Kamari Lands. McNamara lacks head coaching experience, but he ticks all of the other boxes.
- Adrian Autry: Autry was a starting point guard at Syracuse for four seasons in the early 90s, still ranks fifth in career assists (631) and sixth in career steals (217) at Syracuse. He returned in 2011 and currently coaches the forwards. Autry has also proven to be a reliable recruiter, and was primarily responsible for five-star 2021 wing Benny Williams landing at Syracuse. Like McNamara, he’s never been a head coach.
- Allen Griffin: Griffin was a versatile guard for the Orangemen in the late 90s, and started every game of his sophomore and junior seasons. After his Euro career, he held assistant coaching positions at St. Francis (NY), Providence, Hofstra, and Dayton before returning to Syracuse in 2017. He nearly pulled off a coup of five-star wing Darius Bazley before Bazley decided to decommit and turn pro.
Other candidates in the Orange family:
- Ryan Blackwell: Blackwell enjoyed a standout career with Syracuse after transferring in from Illinois, and was named to the All Big East Third Team his senior season. He went on to play overseas in Japan, England and France before jumping into coaching. Blackwell has been a head coach for two Japanese professional teams, and has coached Liverpool High School and Boeheim’s Army more recently.
- Stephen Thompson: Thompson was an All-Big East wing in the late 80s who also had a cup of coffee with the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings for a season. He bounced around various overseas professional leagues after that, and has been an assistant coach at Oregon State since 2014. He also has head coaching experience at Cal State LA.
- Greg Paulus: While Paulus is not in the Orange basketball family, he played his graduate season for the Syracuse football team, and he was a two-sport star at nearby Christian Brothers Academy as a high school athlete. He’s currently trying to turn around a Niagara basketball team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2006-07 season. At 34 years old, Paulus is one of the youngest head coaches in Div. I basketball.
Other interesting candidates outside the Orange family:
- Nate Oats: Oats enjoyed considerable success at nearby Buffalo before he took over at Alabama. He’s led a renaissance with the Crimson Tide, improving them from 16 wins in 2019-20 to 2 wins at a SEC title. It’s unlikely he’d ever leave, and he made that clear in March after being linked to openings at Indiana, Iowa State and Minnesota.
- Mike Rhoades: Rhoades has had success at Rice and VCU, leading the Rams to two NCAA appearances in four years, and improving the Owls from 12 wins in 2016 to 23 wins in 2017. He was the 2019 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year. While he doesn’t have specific ties to Central New York, he has a solid coaching pedigree and would be the kind of candidate who is ready to make the jump from mid-major to high-major.
- Mark Schmidt: The longtime head coach at St. Bonaventure, Schmidt led the Bonnies to an Atlantic 10 Conference Championship and their third NCAA Tournament berth since 2012. He’s got 324 wins to his name.
Thinking outside the box:
- Carmelo Anthony: Hear me out on this one. Penny Hardaway has been the head coach at Memphis since 2018 having no prior college head coaching experience. Chris Mullin did the same with St. John’s in 2015. Juwan Howard and Patrick Ewing moved from NBA assistant coaching positions into the lead role at their alma maters at Michigan and Georgetown. The results have been decidedly mixed, but Anthony is nearing the end of his career, and his retirement from professional basketball might dovetail with Boeheim’s retirement from coaching at Syracuse.
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