Mike Hopkins spent a long time with the Syracuse Orange.
He played for the New York university from 1989 to 1993 then he returned as an assistant coach for Jim Boeheim in 1996 after spending some time as a professional player in the CBA and in Europe. Over the next 20-plus years, he not only established himself as Boeheim’s right-hand man and a valuable member of Mike Krzyzewski’s Team USA coaching staffs, he also earned the distinction of being the man picked to replace Boeheim as Syracuse’s head coach after the 2017-18 season.
That won’t happen now, though. Not after he accepted the job as Washington’s new men’s basketball coach last weekend.
So, after all that time with the Orange, what could have possibly made Hopkins decide to pack up his family and move all the way across the country to take over a program that ended the 2016-17 season on 13 straight losses?
Hopkins spoke about that with 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob, Groz and Tom” on Friday, and he made it clear he feels a connection to the area. For starters, while he grew up in Laguna Hills, Calif., he has family ties to the Seattle – his father grew up in Laurelhurst, graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended UW, his mother grew up in Seattle and Wenatchee, and the family would vacation at Lake Chelan. And by the sounds of it, he’s ecstatic to embrace his new residence.
“I was in the car with my son (Thursday) … taking an Uber back to the hotel,” Hopkins said, “and (the driver) asked where we’re from. I looked at my son and I said, ‘I’m from Seattle.’ And I got a lot of pride and I’m so darn excited to be here and to represent the area and be the head coach of the University of Washington.”
Not that leaving Syracuse was easy. Anything but.
“It was really hard because the place raised me. I left southern California … and I’ve been there since,” he said. “They were great to me, they raised me. I learned a lot from them and I know if you saw during the press conference (Wednesday) how many outlets were being covered, they were showing it on TV and streaming it over there. There is always going to be a special place in my heart (for Syracuse).”
In the end, though, there was something about the opportunity in Montlake that was too much to pass up for Hopkins.
“The exciting thing about being here is how special I felt this place can be, and is.”