Mike Hopkins’ tenure as the University of Washington men’s basketball coach has been one big contradiction. Therefore, it’s understandable that the readers are conflicted about whether he’s the long-term solution as the team’s head coach.
The Huskies ended their month-and-a-half losing streak last week, but remain mired toward the bottom of the Pac-12 standings at 2-7 in league and 3-11 overall. It’s possible this could be the second straight year Washington finishes last in the conference.
It’s a stunning reversal after Hopkins took over a moribund program in 2017 and immediately won back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, guiding the Huskies to the Pac-12 championship and the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2019.
Therefore, this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers if they thought Hopkins was the right coach for Washington the long haul.
POLL: Is Mike Hopkins the right coach for the University of Washington men’s basketball team for the long-term? Full context, including the rundown of his topsy-turvy four years, here: https://t.co/JCT9lTw746
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) January 25, 2021
When adding together the votes between the poll posted on The Herald’s website and the one posted on Twitter, one finds a nearly even split. The majority of the voters said Hopkins isn’t the long-term solution, but the 53% to 47% margin is a thin one.
On one hand, Hopkins showed enough during those first two seasons that he deserves the chance to get the Huskies out of this malaise. Remember, Washington was 2-16 in the Pac-12 the year before Hopkins arrived. One challenge specific to Hopkins is that he’s a systems coach, particularly on defense where the longtime Syracuse assistant deploys Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. The zone is something that takes time to master, and when the Huskies went the one-and-done route with Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels in 2019-20, the players just weren’t around long enough to perfect the zone. Then those players left, and the program was back starting from square one.
On the other hand, one can argue Hopkins was the beneficiary of inheriting an experienced squad. While Lorenzo Romar’s last season was a brutal one, he did leave Hopkins an experienced roster consisting of highly regarded recruits who hadn’t made it happen at the college level yet, bolstered by the arrival of Romar recruit Jaylen Nowell. One can also believe Hopkins’ system, which tends to slow the game down, isn’t the right one either for recruiting players who want to play up-tempo — Hopkins’ struggles on the recruiting trail the past two years may be an indicator of that — or for entertainment value.
It’s all probably moot anyway. Hopkins signed a six-year, $17.5-million contract extension in March of 2019 that runs through the 2024-25 season. If the Huskies fired Hopkins, they’d be on the hook for that contract as well as what it would cost to hire a replacement. Given how college athletic departments are financially squeezed right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to imagine Washington throwing that kind of money away at the moment.
But for a little more than half of Herald readers, it’s still a move they believe the Huskies should make.