basketball Edit

Mike Hopkins "Exceptionally Happy" at Washington, Focused on Year Two

Washington Huskies men's basketball head coach Mike Hopkins (center), with assistant coaches Cameron Dollar (left) and Dave Rice (right).
Washington Huskies men's basketball head coach Mike Hopkins (center), with assistant coaches Cameron Dollar (left) and Dave Rice (right). (USA Today)

The 22 years Mike Hopkins spent as an assistant coach at Syracuse were no match for his first year as Washington’s head men’s basketball coach.

At least when it comes to his hair…or increasingly lack there of. Hopkins joked with the media Thursday, speaking for the final time after the Huskies 85-81 double-overtime loss to Saint Mary’s on Monday. UW ending its season 21-13 overall with a second round exit in the NIT,

“I told you I lost a real estate up here. Lost a lot of real estate,” Hopkins said laughing, letting out a sigh, after UW finished the 2017-18 season with a 21-13 overall record, an even dozen wins more than the team finished with last year under Lorenzo Romar.

The Huskies beat three top 25 teams this season; No. 2 Kansas 74-65 on Dec. 6, No. 25 Arizona State 68-64 on Feb. 1 and No. 9 Arizona 78-75 on Feb. 3. The trio of wins marked the first time UW had beaten three ranked teams since doing so in 2014-15, upsetting No. 13 San Diego State, No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 13 Utah.

With rejuvenated energy and increased attention, Hopkins has been named as a potential head coach at Pittsburgh. ESPN reporter Jeff Goodman floated Hopkins’ name Wednesday, noting his ties to the Northeast and being the 2017 Pac-12 Coach of the Year, tweeting “if Dan Hurley chooses UConn” that the UW coach could be a viable candidate.

“Don’t believe what you read,” Hopkins said, responding to the rumors of his name being linked to various jobs. “Every year there is sources. Three months ago I was involved with three different jobs. At the end of the day, me and my family are exceptionally happy here, for a great leader in Jen Cohen.

“I always wanted to go to some place where we could build something special. And be part of a great organization, surround yourself with great people and I think I’ve done that. Love it here. Looking forward to building what we did on this year. Think we can make another major step forward. Simple.”

Mike Hopkins met with the media Thursday for the final time in 2017-18, following the Huskies 85-81 double-overtime loss to Saint Mary's in the Second Round of the NIT Tournament on Monday.
Mike Hopkins met with the media Thursday for the final time in 2017-18, following the Huskies 85-81 double-overtime loss to Saint Mary's in the Second Round of the NIT Tournament on Monday. (Lars Hanson / TheDawgReport.com)

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski dropped Hopkins’ name Thursday as well, acknowledging the impact he made in his time on the USA Men’s Basketball National Team coaching staff.

Much of the change that resulted in the 12-win turnaround from a year ago stemmed from Hopkins implementing the zone defense at UW. With two decades spent under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, and also on the national team, Hopkins is becoming increasingly known for his success using the 2-3 zone defense.

“The zone itself I learned a lot from Jim, but also from Mike Hopkins,” Krzyzewski said. “Jim and Mike were – Mike Hopkins did an amazing job behind the scenes. So we learned a lot. We used it one time, and we won a game in Madrid against Spain. Big time game. But we practiced it a little bit.”

UW graduates only two players off its current roster, Dan Kingma and Greg Bowman, both walk-on’s. The Huskies already signed point guard Elijah Hardy, forward Jamal Bey and center Nate Roberts for the 2018 recruiting class, adding a commitment from four-star C Bryan Penn-Johnson, ranked as the No. 111 prospect in the country by Rivals, on Monday.

With Hopkins making his future poignantly clear Thursday, changes could still come with players choosing to declare for the NBA Draft or leaving the program in some form. Both coaches and players will have end of the year meetings next week, looking at ways to best position the team for the 2017-18 season.

“I worked at a place for a long time. The one fun thing about I think coaching is, you know my job is to help people make their dreams come true,” Hopkins said, adding he will be 1,000 percent supportive if the change is the right decision.

“To help them be successful on and off the court. Use basketball as a lesson to succeed. So with all our coaches I want them to grow. I want them to be better, and I hope that if their dream was to be in the NBA, or to be a head coach in again in another league. I’m not one of these guys who’s, ‘do whatever you can to get them to stay’. It’s about growth. It’s about where you want to be.”