Men's Basketball

3 things Mike Hopkins said at his Washington introductory press conference

Courtesy of Washington Athletics

Mike Hopkins was all smiles at his introductory press conference at Washington on Wednesday.

In his first official day as Washington’s head coach, Mike Hopkins was introduced at Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday afternoon. He offered his first public comments since stunning the Syracuse community, ending a 22-year run as an assistant coach to Jim Boeheim to take the Huskies job.

Here are three things Hopkins said at his press conference.

The Boeheim succession plan was still in place

When news leaked Sunday morning that Hopkins was leaving the Orange, one year removed from succeeding Boeheim as head coach, many assumed he left SU because Boeheim wouldn’t. But Hopkins debunked that belief on Wednesday, circling back around to the procedure that was laid out in March 2015.

“The plan was intact,” Hopkins said. “Everything was going to be as it was stated multiple times.

“…(Boeheim) was disappointed (I was leaving), but when I talked to him about my visions and why … We were all good.”

SU’s 41-year head coach indicated in a press conference on Monday that he “100 percent” intended to retire after this upcoming season. But after inking an undisclosed contract extension in response to the Hopkins move, we’ll never know for sure what would’ve happened. It was clear Hopkins still has great admiration for Boeheim as he choked up at the thought of his mentor, someone he considers a father-like figure.

Washington checked the boxes

Hopkins made clear on Wednesday that he required a very specific criterion for any school that wanted to lure him away from the Orange: place, potential and people. In regards to place, Hopkins’ admitted he’s a west coast guy. Hailing from Southern California, the new Washington head coach was raised by parents from the Seattle area. It didn’t take much geographical convincing to get Hopkins to jump coasts.

In terms of the Huskies’ potential, the Pacific-12 conference tugged at Hopkins. It doesn’t wield the number of high-powered teams the Atlantic Coast Conference does, but currently PAC 12 teams (Oregon, Arizona and UCLA) outnumber the remaining ACC teams (North Carolina) in the NCAA Tournament. Hopkins will have enough exposure to showcase a winning team once he has one.

“If you can compete at the highest level of the PAC-12 conference,” Hopkins said, “you have a chance to win a national championship.”

Given Hopkins’ affable personality, it’s difficult not to have a harmonious relationship with the bubbly 47-year-old. But the Huskies’ personnel situation seems especially appropriate for Hopkins. He’ll report directly to Jennifer Cohen, UW’s first-year athletic director who hired the first-year head coach. That was the third box for Hopkins to check, and clearly he did.

Man-to-man or zone?

There’s no greater hallmark of Boeheim’s coaching tenure than the zone defense. Given how much time Hopkins spent under his tutelage, it was only appropriate to ask the Huskies coach if he would import the defense he became so familiar with at Syracuse.

“The zone is one of the greatest weapons of college basketball,” Hopkins said. “…It’s an incredible weapon. It’s won a lot of games for Syracuse.”

Hopkins also saw first-hand how difficult the zone can be to grasp in a player’s first year. Andrew White, John Gillon, Tyus Battle and Taurean Thompson also struggled with it to varying degrees with the Orange this season. If Hopkins were to fully go zone next season at UW, a similar learning curve should be expected. That might have been enough to dissuade Hopkins from fully committing to that plan.

“I believe in controlling tempo,” Hopkins said. “If a team plays fast we can slow you down. If a team plays slow, we can speed you up.

“…I can tell you the zone will be utilized. It’s a heck of a weapon, but there’s going to be an unpredictable attack. I like being unpredictable, and sometimes the zone can be a little bit predictable.”

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