“You guys have been so blessed to get Mike Hopkins, I’m telling ya,” former Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross says.
What’s to follow is unapologetic lobbying on behalf of Mike Hopkins, the new University of Washington basketball coach.
“You guys have been so blessed to get Mike Hopkins, I’m telling ya,” Daryl Gross, the former Syracuse athletic director, is saying.
Gross spent 11 years at Syracuse, where Hopkins was a longtime assistant coach for Jim Boeheim. He says he knows Hopkins “like the back of my hand.” Gross is now at California State University-Los Angeles, and he knows how this is going to sound.
“Heck, I’m not even at Syracuse anymore,” Gross says. “I don’t have to say those things. But it’s the truth!”
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Which is why he says things like:
“I think the University of Washington just hit a grand slam home run.”
“I just really think you’re going to see something very special in basketball for the University of Washington.”
“The first thing that comes to mind is the University of Washington just won the lottery. This guy is one of the rare, special coaches that you’re ever going to come across. They’re going to fall in love with Mike Hopkins. And he will win there.”
Gross is the guy who worked to name Hopkins the coach-in-waiting at Syracuse at Boeheim’s suggestion. He’s the guy who tried to keep Hopkins whenever other schools called, which Gross says happened often (it was later reported Boeheim signed a contract extension after Hopkins took the UW job).
“Every time a job would come up, I’d say, ‘Mike, do you want to be the prince of Belgium or the king of England?’ ” Gross says. “I’d come up with all these analogies to try to keep him there. I think what got us to keep him there was the fact he was so loyal. How beautiful a feature is that? You’ve got a guy who’s going to be so loyal to the University of Washington. He will die there. And he will win there.”
Gross knows some of the other coaches in Seattle, too. He was coaching at UC Davis when Chris Petersen played quarterback there.
“Chris is so special,” Gross says. “Well, Mike Hopkins will fit right in with Chris Petersen. They’re built out of the same type of thing.”
Gross was also part of the USC athletic department when the school controversially hired Pete Carroll in 2001, and he still raves about Carroll.
“I got to tell you, a lot of people were trying to figure out Pete Carroll when he came to USC,” Gross says. “And then he went on to have some of the craziest success you’ve ever seen in college football. Well, Mike Hopkins is that kind of guy as well. I put him in the same common denominator as Pete Carroll and Chris Petersen.”
OK, the obvious: Hopkins has never been a head coach before. His hire probably sent a lot of UW fans to the internet looking for more — or any — info on Hopkins. Fair and valid points. Gross doesn’t care.
“When you meet Mike Hopkins, you don’t forget it,” Gross says. “He is electric. He is type A personified. He is one of the most positive people you’ll ever see and one of the most inspiring people you’ll ever see. Right away, you could tell this guy was very special.”
That was Gross’ first impression, just from meeting Hopkins. Then he watched him coach.
“You’d go to practice and this same consistent energy from Mike is just everywhere,” Gross says. “As soon as you walk out when they’re warming up an hour before practice, this guy is totally infectious. That’s why I call him one of the rare special people.”
Gross says Hopkins can coach X’s and O’s and argues that he’s the best recruiter in the country. Players loved him, talked about him and thanked him at season-ending banquets. It’s why Gross says Hopkins would be his first call as an AD and why he thinks Hopkins will do what Dana Altman has done for Oregon.
“I think we all thought Mike was going to be the head coach a lot sooner at Syracuse,” Gross says. “Some jobs would come up and I would talk Mike out of leaving, and it just made a lot of sense. There were times I felt guilty for talking him in to staying because the guy was such a great coach. I saw so many coaches go to be head coaches before Mike became a head coach and I knew Mike was way more deserving.
“He’s been ready for years.”