Orange Watch: Ask former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins; Consistency is tough

Mike Hopkins
Former Syracuse head coach Mike Hopkins speaks with reporters. Mandatory Photo Credit: Saugat Sen, The Juice Online.

Item: Onetime Syracuse player, assistant coach, and interim head coach (4-5 official record) on two occasions, Mike Hopkins is finding that his third time around as head coach at Washington is not necessarily the charm. After being named the Pac 12 Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons taking Seattle by storm, the Huskies (12-14, 2-11) are in last place in the standings, and will look to snap an eight-game losing streak Thursday night hosting Stanford.

He’s the epitome of consistency. Syracuse basketball goes out on the court through thick and thin, year after year, and wins 73% (72.8%) of the time under Jim Boeheim in 44 seasons heading into Wednesday night’s game at No. 11 Louisville (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN).

That’s 73% of the time. Pretty good odds. There’s only been four, four-game ‘Cuse losing streaks during that eternity of a career, and never has a Boeheim-coached team dropped five straight games.

In fact, there are only two other seasons closely resembling the current 14-11 campaign; 1981-82 and 1996-97 which resulted in records of 16-13 and 19-13, respectively, each with lackluster NIT appearances.

Unless something crazy happens at the ACC Tournament in three weeks, it will disappointingly be another NIT SU season, and this year without the benefit of the Dome to call home.

Which brings us back to Mike Hopkins. Despite handing current No. 1 Baylor its only defeat way back on Nov. 8 in Anchorage of all places, there will be no post-season in his third year at Washington barring something unexpected occurring as the regular season winds down.

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Hopkins won 48 times in his first two years as a head coach, the exact same total as Boeheim’s first two seasons at SU, on route to winning 100 games in his first four years building a national program.

To put that accomplishment into perspective, the only other active coach among the Top 50 in all-time victories to win early more than Boeheim is Gonzaga’s Mark Few with 105 wins in his first four seasons with the Zags.

In year three, Hopkins and UW have been stuck at 12 wins for over a month, negating all the momentum of an NCAA season and a great recruiting class featuring big men Isaiah Stewart (17.1 ppg/8.0 rpg) and Jaden McDaniels (12.8 ppg) the Huskies two leading scorers.

Hopkins hit a major obstacle in early January with the semester academic ineligibility of starting point guard Quade Green, the Kentucky transfer, but overseeing and maintaining the academic eligibility of his roster is part of Hopkins’ head coach responsibilities, especially in tandem with the four listed academic support personnel specific to men’s basketball in the Washington athletic department directory, in addition to available senior administrators.

“They’re young,” Hopkins explained last weekend to the Seattle Times about the makeup of his team which has not won on the road in the Pac 12 this season.

“They go up. They go down,” he continued. “Just got to keep grinding. Keep playing and learning.”

The inconsistency and youth offensively, along with a conference full of coaches catching up to attacking the UW 2/3 zone, helps explain why Hopkins has suffered an eight-game skid in just year three.

It’s the aforementioned quadrant of four-game losing streaks under Boeheim never reaching five straight losses and zero losing seasons, which helps describe the amazing reliability a spoiled Orange Nation has come to expect from the program, and the kind of dependability Huskies fans are impatiently clamoring for in the Hopkins regime.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 684 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.