Former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins can certainly relate to the old adage that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
For the longest time, Hopkins appeared destined to succeed Jim Boeheim, if and when, Boeheim finally decided to call it a career.
Hopkins had been named the coach-in-waiting back in 2015 by Syracuse. He was slated to assume the head coaching position when Boeheim retired at the end of the 2017-18 season.
But that was then, and this is now. And now, if you haven’t noticed, Hopkins is building a wagon.
Hopkins was a master recruiter during his time at Syracuse. And so it stood to reason that it would only be a matter of time before he started landing elite recruits. And after just two seasons at the helm – in which he was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year twice – he’s landing high-level recruits.
The Class of 2017 – Hopkins’ first class – was highlighted by Seattle product Jaylen Nowell, a 4-star recruit. After being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a sophomore, Nowell recently declared for the NBA Draft. Hopkins also used his New York ties to land Hameir Wright from Albany and Nahziah Carter out of Rochester.
In the Class of 2018, Hopkins landed 4-star guard Jamal Bey out of Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman. He also beat out Syracuse and Nebraska for 3-star F/C Nate Roberts.
The Class of 2019 is where Hopkins has started to flex his recruiting muscle. Top 10 recruit Isaiah Stewart out of La Lumiere School in Indiana recently signed with the Huskies. Hopkins developed a relationship with Stewart, formerly from Rochester, NY, during his time with Syracuse.
Besides Stewart, 4-star RaeQuan Battle also signed with Washington. And Hopkins again used his former Syracuse ties to land Kentucky transfer Quade Green, a former 5-star PG recruit.
Hopkins also might not be done as he pursues 5-star forward Jaden McDaniels, a local product from Federal Way, WA. McDaniels would be Hopkins’ second Top-10 recruit, along with Stewart, in the Class of 2019. Though, Kentucky appears to be the leader for McDaniels.
The Pac-12 is in a bit of disarray. UCLA hit the reset button with the firing of Steve Alford last season. USC took a step back this past season under Andy Enfield, now in his sixth season. And the NCAA just knocked on Arizona’s door. So Sean Miller has bigger problems than what Mike Hopkins does to his Wildcats on and off the court. With the conference trending in the wrong direction, Hopkins took full advantage.
The Huskies won the Pac-12 regular season championship with a 15-3 record, finishing three full games ahead of Arizona State. Washington earned a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament after losing in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game to Oregon. The Huskies dispatched of 8-seed Utah State before bowing out to 1-seed North Carolina in the round of 32.
A Look Ahead
Hopkins will have to replace Noah Dickerson, and most likely Nowell, but he appears set to do so. His early success has also raised expectations. ESPN ranks slots the Huskies at No. 17 in their Way-Too-Early Top 25 for next season.
An interesting dichotomy exists between Mike Hopkins and his former mentor, Jim Boeheim. Hopkins is just starting out in his head coaching career while Boeheim is certainly much closer to the end of his. Syracuse fans have been left wondering if Hopkins would come back to coach the Orange once Boeheim steps down.
Why would Hopkins want to go back to his past when the future he’s building seems so bright?
Forrest Gump’s mother once told him that you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on in life. Washington Huskies Head Coach Mike Hopkins has done just that.
The Pac-12, and the rest of the college basketball world, should take notice. Quickly.