It’s been quite the ride for Mike Hopkins during his four seasons as head coach of the University of Washington men’s basketball team.
Hopkins, who was brought in by the Huskies in 2017 following the firing of longtime coach Lorenzo Romar, has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows, all within a condensed period of time by college basketball standards. He’s gone from being the toast of the Pac-12, winning the league’s Coach of the Year award in each of his first two seasons with the Huskies, to being on the hot seat as UW tries to avoid finishing in the conference cellar for the second consecutive year.
So is Hopkins the long-term answer on Montlake?
Hopkins arrived in Seattle as a ball of fire, a high-energy and high-intensity longtime assistant to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse who brought Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone defense with him. Everything clicked immediately. Inheriting a veteran team coming off a miserable season, he guided the Huskies to a 20-win campaign and an appearance in the NIT. The next year he did himself one better, winning the Pac-12 title and reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament. He also signed a top-10 recruiting class that included five-star recruits Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. Hopkins was rewarded with a six-year, $17.5 million contract extension through the 2024-25 season, and the future seemed bright for the UW program.
Little has gone right since. The one-and-dones didn’t translate, as Washington never found the right chemistry with Stewart and McDaniels while slumping to 5-13 in the Pac-12 and 15-17 overall. Then the team’s top returning player, Naz Carter, was suspended from the team over allegations of sexual assault and eventually left school to pursue a professional career. Washington won just one of its first 12 games this season, often being blown out in the process. Add in what appears to be a second straight light recruiting class and those bright lights on the horizon quickly were engulfed by angry storm clouds.
The question is whether this is a blip, or an indication Hopkins isn’t the solution. One can argue that Hopkins won with Romar’s players, then was unable to win with his own. Of course, Romar wasn’t able to win with those players himself.
Washington is also in a tough position if the school does decide it needs to move on from Hopkins. UW is on the hook for all of that contract extension, and given the revenue losses being incurred because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Huskies may not have the financial resources to pay top dollar to both Hopkins and a replacement simultaneously.
It’s a conundrum. The good news is that the Dawgs finally showed some life this weekend, sweeping home games against Colorado and Utah to finally give UW fans something to cheer about. Maybe it’s a sign Hopkins is righting the ship.
So what do you think? Is Hopkins the right person for the job for the long haul? Is the current malaise just a case of resetting, or is it an indication that the job is too much for him? Let us know your opinion here: