Mike Hopkins on UW Huskies’ promising season and heartbreaking tourney loss
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament will pick up Thursday with a game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles, but this time the UW Huskies – the winningest team in the Pac-12 this season – will be watching from home.
Even then, there’s plenty for Washington’s players to be proud of. It’s a point stressed by head coach Mike Hopkins, who joined Bob Stelton, Dave Grosby and Tom Wassell on 710 ESPN Seattle Wednesday to recap the season and the tournament.
“I think the most important thing is we’re all disappointed that we lost and there’s so much emotion because it’s the end,” Hopkins said when asked about his talk with players after Washington’s loss to No. 1 North Carolina on Mar. 24.
“But what I wanted them to know is that they were champions, and what they accomplished was incredible. They put Washington basketball back on the map. And most importantly, we built a family and an extension of the family. And family is forever. And we’re able to do it with a bunch of guys that they loved to be around, that had to work exceptionally hard to get that opportunity to be in a tournament, to win a championship. But the most important thing when everything in life goes down, it’s knowing that you have family that’s going to be there forever. And that was one of the big messages that I wanted them to know.”
The UW Huskies have gone from a dismal nine-win season two years ago to a Pac-12 best 27-9 record in 2018 and their first return to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 2011. Hopkins earned his second consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year nod, while sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell was named Pac-12 Player of the Year.
No word yet on Nowell’s NBA decision
The plan is for both Hopkins and Nowell to have a conversation about Nowell’s impending decision to either stay at Washington or enter the NBA draft.
“You know, we haven’t sat down and spoke, but Jaylen had an incredible two seasons and I think he’s going to be in the NBA a long time if he decides to go (now) or next year,” Hopkins said. “He’s just an incredible talent. Once we get the facts and do the research… we’re going to sit down and kind of layout a plan of if he stays, (here are) the pluses, and if he goes what are the pluses. But the most important thing is doing what’s in the best interest of Jaylen Nowell and his family. And being there to support whatever decision he makes. I think our role is to give him the best information, because with the best information you can make great decisions.”
Listen to Hopkins’ full interview with Bob, Groz and Tom in the audio clip embedded above. You can hear Bob, Groz and Tom every weekday from noon – 3 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle.