SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Hopkins is standing in the middle of a crossroads that will likely determine his future at the University of Washington.
Heading into his fifth season at the helm of the UW men’s basketball team, Hopkins is facing mounting questions for the first time in what has been a storybook career.
Is he the bombastic and energetic outsider who took over a downtrodden program in 2017 and two years later guided the Huskies to a Pac-12 championship and NCAA tournament appearance?
Or is he the beleaguered coach who failed to maximize the most out of a star-studded team that finished last in the Pac-12 during the 2019-20 season before bottoming out to a dismal 5-21 record and an 11th-place finish last season.
“It’s a fair question,” Hopkins said. “It’s hard to win in college sports. The biggest thing is you’ve got to have high standards. You’ve got to have a proven system of winning, which we have.
“If I learned anything this year, I realized that coaching is one element, but then you have to have cohesion and chemistry and things that the great teams have.”
At Pac-12 men’s basketball media day, Hopkins spoke at length publicly Wednesday for the first time since a tumultuous offseason in which eight players left the program, including seven transfers.
The mass exodus and biting criticism from former player Hameir Wright who questioned Hopkins’ character was a stunning and surprising rebuke of the 52-year-old coach who was heralded as a Husky savior just two years ago.
“I don’t take anything personal,” Hopkins said. “I learned in this business you’re going to get a lot of darts thrown at you. The bottom line is you got to go out there and do the best job you can to build a team and build them as people. We believe that our process has been successful. It’s been proven.”
Still, Hopkins has seemingly liquidated the goodwill compiled during his first two years at UW, which forced him to overhaul the program.
Washington brought in new assistants Quincy Pondexter, the former UW star forward, and Wyking Jones, who coached at California.
Additionally, the Huskies revamped the roster with eight newcomers, including six transfers and four-star freshman forward Jackson Grant from Olympia High.
“We weren’t what we needed to be to play at the level we want to compete at,” Hopkins said. “We got a new group. I’m excited about the new group.”
Four transfers with Seattle ties include senior guards Daejon Davis, Terrell Brown Jr., PJ Fuller and forward Emmitt Matthews Jr.
“Right when we met everybody and we all got together, it just clicked immediately,” said senior guard Jamal Bey. “It was easy to do stuff with people where you don’t have to worry about if someone doesn’t like this person….
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