Washington head coach Mike Hopkins directs his team during the first half of a game against Washington State on Thursday in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Washington head coach Mike Hopkins directs his team during the first half of a game against Washington State on Thursday in Pullman. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

UW announces Mike Hopkins will not return as men’s basketball coach

The school is parting ways with 54-year-old after seven mostly disappointing seasons.

SEATTLE — Mike Hopkins will not return as the head coach at Washington after just one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons, the school announced Friday.

Hopkins’ tenure will end at the conclusion of the season and following a frustrating stretch of mediocre results, an inability to put Washington back into the elite of the Pac-12 and with the Huskies moving to the Big Ten starting next season. Hopkins had one year remaining on his contract and will be owed $3.1 million as part of his buyout.

Hopkins will coach Washington in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament that starts Wednesday in Las Vegas.

“Mike has led the program with great integrity during his seven years at Washington, and remains a highly respected coach and one of the great gentlemen in the game,” Washington athletic director Troy Dannen said in a statement. “Everyone at the university is grateful for his service, his commitment to the experience of our student-athletes and his leadership within the department.”

The Huskies are 17-14 overall this season and finished 9-11 in Pac-12 play. It was the second major move by Dannen, who took over last October. He already faced a football coaching search and now one with men’s basketball.

Hopkins was 118-105 overall, but just 62-72 in conference play, during his time at Washington.

The 54-year-old Hopkins started quickly when he was lured away as an assistant at Syracuse for the first full-time head coaching job of his career. Once the coach-in-waiting to replace Jim Boeheim, Hopkins went 21-13 in his first season at Washington. The following year, Washington was the Pac-12 regular-season champion and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies finished the 2018-19 season 27-9.

But Hopkins’ success was largely built on the backs of players recruited by previous Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. When Hopkins was tasked with building his own program, he struggled badly. He tried with one-and-done stars like Markelle Fultz, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. He tried with traditional high school recruits. He tried heavily via the transfer portal in his final two seasons.

Nothing worked to the level expected. Over the past five seasons at Washington, Hopkins was 69-82, and the Huskies finished higher than eighth in the conference standings only once in the previous four seasons.

Washington’s final placement in the conference standings and seed for the upcoming Pac-12 tournament will be determined after the last conference games on Saturday.

There were loud calls from fans to make a change each of the past two seasons, but a large buyout in Hopkins’ contract — signed after making the NCAAs in his second season — made moving on challenging for an athletic department that faced a deficit at the time.

But there was no way Washington could move forward with Hopkins coming off another lackluster season, entering the final year of his contract and with Washington about to make the move to the Big Ten Conference.

Managing that move to the Big Ten after spending the entirety of the school’s history playing on the West Coast will be the task for whoever takes over. And it’s likely to make the job attractive to candidates who may not have been enticed if the Huskies were staying in the Pac-12. Dannen should be able to seek candidates both from power programs and some under-the-radar options.

“I am confident we will identify a phenomenal leader for our men’s basketball program who will embrace our institution’s high expectations for academic, social and competitive success,” Dannen said.

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