first_imgWhen the referee walked away from the scorer’s table and signaled Clemson ball, Mike Hopkins dropped his head for a brief moment.One second remained on the overtime clock and Syracuse trailed by one point. An orange possession would have given it one last prayer at a win it once had in hand, but the opposite result sealed SU’s fate and froze Hopkins’ head coaching record at 4-5 for the foreseeable future.When the final buzzer sounded moments later, Hopkins shook hands with a line of Tigers before walking off the court. He maintained a grim look on his face while he ducked into the tunnel on his way to the Syracuse locker room. On Tuesday, the Orange (10-6, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) fell 74-73 to Clemson (9-6, 2-1) in the Carrier Dome. On Saturday, Jim Boeheim will return as SU’s head coach after a nine-game suspension and Hopkins will have to wait two and a half years before he can prove he’s better than a losing record.“I’m not a loser. I don’t lose. I never have, in high school … I hate it,” said Hopkins, tears starting to fill his eyes as he stood behind the postgame podium. “I’m up here being composed, It’s not in my DNA, so it hurts.”After Syracuse beat Colgate on Dec. 8 — the second game of Boeheim’s suspension — Hopkins talked about giving the program back to Boeheim in better shape than he left it. That was five days after the NCAA surprisingly moved the suspension from the start of ACC play to be effective immediately, and three days after Hopkins lost his debut at Georgetown. Hopkins likened the program to a car, and said he couldn’t give the keys back to Boeheim with Doritos in the backseat.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd while Hopkins did make note of improvements over the last nine games, namely on the defensive end, the Orange hasn’t won a “signature” game since Boeheim was coaching it at the Battle 4 Atlantis. His losses came to Clemson by one, Miami by 13, Pittsburgh by 11, St. John’s by 12 and Georgetown by seven. His wins came against Texas Southern by 13, Montana State by 22, Cornell by 21 and Colgate by 27.“Well dad might be a little upset,” Hopkins said when asked what kind of shape the car is in now. “… I have to give the car and that’s going to be hard. The keys, you know, hand them to him. But I think the kids have gotten better. I think that the most important thing that I wanted to do, I felt when the transition happened, was constantly get better, focus on the process.”In the locker room after the game, a handful of Syracuse players were excited for Boeheim’s return but didn’t think his absence had a negative effect on the team over the last month. Hopkins said it will be good to have Boeheim, who he called “one of the greatest coaches to ever walk the sideline,” return to get the program “back to normalcy.”But even if the last nine games didn’t go as planned, he reflected on the last month as a learning experience for him and his team — which is now Boeheim’s team once again.“The one thing I know through this experience is that I’ve loved every second of it,” Hopkins said. “I’m addicted to it. It’s created an energy in me that I haven’t had in a long time, which I’m very blessed and grateful to have.” Comments Published on January 5, 2016 at 11:52 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse Related Stories Syracuse folds late in regulation for 3rd straight game, drops matchup with Clemson, 74-73, in overtimeFast reaction: 3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 74-73 overtime loss to ClemsonSyracuse community reacts to loss against ClemsonGrade Syracuse’s performance against Clemson and vote for the player of the gamecenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img