The energy flows out of him. He cannot answer a simple question without a smile and an illustration of what he is talking about. He looks you in the eye and makes sure you understand what he is talking about. It is very easy to see how Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins connects with his players, both current and future.
With a semi-circle of reporters around him, Hopkins demonstrates his point on post-up play, just because he happens to be under a basket. He explains, adding a drop-step and shooting an imaginary ball, then stops and looks back, making sure the point is understood. He even narrates a slap across the wrist to emphasize his point about strength being needed under the bucket to power through a foul from an imaginary defender.
Relating to players and recruits seems like a simple extension of the conversation. In fact, you wonder if anyone could say “no” to him.
Think of the best teacher you ever had. The one who made you want to succeed, not just for yourself, but to make your teacher proud.
That teacher is Mike Hopkins.
He speaks proudly of what his pupils on the basketball team have accomplished. When a less comfortable question surfaces, he still explains his answer, understanding the struggles a player may be experiencing and relating to his own experience in a self-effacing way that is endearing. He sympathizes with his players and understands their shortcomings while appreciating their effort to overcome.
He relates so well to people, you cannot help but understand his success.
It shows in the comfort level of the players he guides. While Hopkins is still an authority figure to the young men on the team, several of them toss barbs of the “Come on, Hops” variety when the team photographer asks the coach, who is on the far right side, to move a little closer.
The moment speaks of Hopkins himself. A smile, a laugh, and an attempt to draw you closer.