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Amaker, Hopkins the names that don't go away for USC basketball job

March 29, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker walks off the court after losing to the Arizona Wildcats, 74-51, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker walks off the court after losing to the Arizona… (Harry How / Getty Images )

There has been some unending traction to the name "Tommy Amaker" and the USC basketball head coaching job that is still open and being taken care of by interim head coach Bob Cantu (who must be tired of that word. "Interim.").

Also, according to a person close to the athletic department and another aware of candidates contacted by a search firm being used by USC, Syracuse assistant and former Mater Dei player Mike Hopkins is still in the picture.

Since Amaker's name remains floating out there, it might be time to examine his coaching record. He was a talented point guard and then an assistant at Duke.

He became head coach at Seton Hall in 1997 and had a 68-55 record at the Big East school, which he took to the NIT three times and the NCAA tournament once. From there Amaker became head coach at Michigan, where he was fired after six seasons of no NCAA appearances.

In April 2007, Amaker became head coach at Harvard. In 2008, The New York Times published an article that suggested Amaker had lowered the academic standards in his first class of recruits. It also suggested improper recruiting tactics were being used.

According to that New York Times article written by respected college reporter Pete Thamel, Amaker's first group of six recruits were rated among the top 25 in the country, something unprecedented in this era of no athletic scholarships at Ivy League schools.

Based partly on the story, the Ivy League conducted a four-month investigation into the Harvard program under Amaker and determined no violations had occurred. But the NCAA rejected the Ivy League's findings, did its own two-year investigation and decided Amaker did break some recruiting rules. Harvard was placed on recruiting restrictions during the 2010-2011 season, the first time in Harvard history it had accepted an NCAA penalty.

Harvard, winner of the Ivy League this year, came to this NCAA tournament as a No. 14 seed. It upset New Mexico, then was eliminated by sixth-seeded Arizona 74-51.

Hopkins has spent 18 years at Syracuse -- five as a player and 13 as an assistant coach to 68-year-old Jim Boeheim. The Orange upset top-seeded Indiana on Thursday and will play Marquette in the Elite Eight. Hopkins, 44, has been interviewed for the USC job by representatives of the school, according to two athletic department members familiar with the coach search. USC has hired recruitment firm Korn/Ferry to help with the search.

Three other coaches who had been mentioned as candidates for USC's job -- Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, who grew up in Southern California; New Mexico's Steve Alford; and Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart -- have all, in the last week, signed new contract extensions with their present schools.


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