Washington tabs Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins as new coach
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington moved quickly in filling its basketball coaching vacancy, hiring longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins on Sunday.
The move comes four days after Lorenzo Romar was fired following 15 seasons at his alma mater and the Huskies' sixth straight season in missing the NCAA Tournament.
Hopkins is returning to the West Coast, having grown up in the Los Angeles area. He is also leaving the only school he's ever really known. Hopkins played at Syracuse from 1989-93 and returned to the staff there in 1996.
He was named the successor to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim in June 2015, but jumped at the chance to coach in the Pac-12. Hopkins had been linked the past few years to job openings at USC and Oregon State.
"His resume and reputation within the basketball community made him stand out to us, but ultimately it was his vision for Washington, his passion for teaching and developing student-athletes and his close alignment with the core values of our institution and department that made it more than clear that he was the right fit for us," Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen said in a statement.
Hopkins is the first major hire by Cohen since she was named to the position full time in May 2016. The decision to replace Romar was divisive because of his long relationship with the school and his early success. But that was countered by the team's recent struggles, its last NCAA appearance coming in 2011.
Washington was 9-22 this season and ended the year on a school-record 13-game losing streak despite having expected NBA lottery pick Markelle Fultz. The 9-22 mark was the school's worst since 5-22 in the 1993-94 season.
There is also the matter of Washington's recruiting class for next season. It is ranked among the nation's best and highlighted by Michael Porter Jr., the top-ranked senior. Hopkins' first job will be trying to salvage as much of that recruiting class as possible and persuading current Huskies' players to not transfer.
Hopkins called Washington a "unique place, with a world-class university, an exciting basketball history and unbelievable fan support."
"Together, I believe we can build something very special in Seattle," he added in his statement. "And I can't wait to get started."
Syracuse also must start again. When Hopkins was announced as the "coach in waiting" in 2015, the expectation was that he would take over the Orange following the 2017-18 season. Hopkins was Syracuse's interim coach during the 2015-16 season while Boeheim was suspended for nine games.
"I can't express enough thanks to coach Boeheim for so many years of mentorship and guidance," Hopkins said. "The timing is right for me and my family to make this move."