Hopkins sensed his the Huskies were tense and not having fun so on Friday night he took the team to see the film Black Panther.
One of Mike Hopkins’ friends watched the Washington men’s basketball team lose its third straight game last Thursday and called the Husky coach with a sobering observation.
“It looks like they’re not having fun,” Hopkins said his friend told him.
So he knew what he had to do.
“(Friday) we got them in and everybody thought they were going to practice and we to go see the Black Panther as a group,” Hopkins said. “We just went and watched a movie. They were laughing. They were smiling. They were relaxed. And it was fun. This game is an interesting game. It’s such a mental thing. But that’s how it’s been. You just got to teach them what it takes and they got to go out and execute it.”
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Apparently, the impromptu outing to the movies did the trick and lightened the mood of a UW team that seemed saddled by the sudden expectations of making the NCAA tournament.
The Huskies played with renewed spirit and effort during Saturday’s 82-59 win over Colorado on the night UW retired former great Isaiah Thomas’ jersey and raised No. 2 into the rafters at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington (18-9, 8-6 Pac-12) got a much needed win, but perhaps more importantly the Huskies regained their mojo and reaffirmed their push for a NCAA tournament at-large berth.
“You never know what the right button to push is,” Hopkins said. “That’s why you have a great staff. You go and you talk and you try to figure out what’s our next step. We didn’t really know what the problem was. … You have to have fun in this game. You can’t let the pressure, expectation, the stress, not to say – we didn’t know what it was.
“It was kind of like, have you ever been to a Halloween party and they say you have to close your eyes and put that hand in that bag and you don’t know what you’re going to pull out. Going like this and now and laters. They responded and it was a great thing and a great movie by the way. It wasn’t Star Wars, but it was good.”
It should be noted, Hopkins is a huge Star Wars fan.
Here’s the video and a few quotes from his postgame interview.
(On the win) “Sometimes, I don’t know. Expectations at the beginning of the year were low, then when you win it goes high and when you don’t meet expectations sometimes that becomes expectations and at the end of the day I don’t know if these guys were having fun. This game is a team game, playing together. Its a fun game, you have to have fun. That’s when you are playing your best. You have to go out and fight and compete and then whatever happens then happens. You can miss shots you can do all that stuff. You have to be able to do that. It’s a fun game. The coaching staff was kind of like ‘we’ve had a great season and you guys have done a lot of great things.’ You just have to remember what got us there. You can show them all you want, they have to go out and play. Those guys, I have to give them a lot of credit. They battled, they competed against a great basketball team tonight. Another great crowd. Obviously Isiah (Thomas) and all the ex players being around. There’s a lot of pride at this university and the school. The guys, they want to go out and show everybody that they’re a good basketball team. I thought they did that tonight.”
(On rebounding) “Rebounding is a fight. We’re small down there for a lot of period of the game and they are big and a lot of teams we play are big. You have to be able to go out there and don’t worry about the boxing out but you have to just go get it. The one thing that we did when we are small, when we did get it we ran. That was one of the best transition games that we’ve had all year. We were able to capitalize, get down, get some easy baskets, get the crowd into the game, get the flow going. To answer your question, we always say five guys in the paint. You have to go back. The zone, there are a lot of holes, that’s why you have to go get it. You have to be in position. You want to win. You better go rebound. That’s where it has really hurt us. We fought, but also I thought our defense, we were flying around again. When you’re flying and you’re having fun and you’re just competing, that’s when we’re at our best and that’s when our guys, I thought they did down there and they did it tonight too on the glass.”
(On Isaiah Thomas) “I’ve seen the Arizona game probably 1000 times. Again, I think it’s not necessarily what he did with his team or what not. I think it’s the individual, the inspiration of the guy. All of us in this room if you had a child and you could sit there that might not be 7’0 290 pounds and say ‘hey, man, if you work hard and you stick to your plan and you’re a great person and you represent your family, basketball, all those things to the highest degree, one day you can be like him.’ That’s what makes him special. He related to every kid in the United States of America. He was a guy that people questioned when he went pro. He was the last pick. He went back in his career and he struggled and he became an all-star. He became one of the leading scorers in the NBA. In the NBA. I don’t think there’s a greater role model or inspiration than Isaiah Thomas. To be one of ours, that’s whey I wish I could have seen it. I heard it.”
(On starting Dominic Green in place of Jaylen Nowell) “We just needed something different. Dominic has been, I’ve always felt that shooters need to start. That was one of my philosophies I felt like we just need a spark from an exterior guy who can really nail shots. It was more of a gut thing.”