Hopkins is humbled by sellout-crowd last Sunday and says 'that type of atmosphere is what makes college basketball so special.'

Share story

The first Alaska Airlines Arena sellout of the season left quite an impression on first-year Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins.

“Our crowd … what can you say?” he said Sunday following the Huskies 80-62 win over in-state rival Washington State. “I got chills a couple times just going … I’ve got a wave – a tsunami. They’ve got our back.

“You can see the looks on the kids’ faces when you start getting that momentum. It’s just building and that wave just keeps building and building and building. … That sixth man at your back. That’s a pretty intimidating thing. Tonight’s crowd, when I talked about coming here in the first place, that’s what I always dreamt it would be. I was happy we gave them something.”

Hopkins, who spent the past 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse, grew up professionally in college basketball crazed community that routinely packs that 33,000-seat Carrier Dome.

Seattle is a hotbed for hoops, but Hopkins was greeted with the lukewarm reception as 5,883 fans came out for the Huskies’ season opener in November. Washington flirted with sellouts against Gonzaga (9,749) and Stanford (8,256) and it annoyed Hopkins that UW lost both games rather convincingly.

Perhaps that explains why it seemed as if Hopkins took extra gratification from Sunday’s victory which he called the “best game of the year tonight.”

Hopkins was talking about the Huskies, but he could have been talking about the 10,000 fans who packed Alaska Airlines Arena.

And Tuesday Hopkins took out a full-page ad in The Seattle Times sports thanking UW fans for their support.

“Seattle! I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for the outpouring of support and kindness you have shown in welcoming me and my family to this community,” Hopkins wrote in the ad. “It has been truly humbling.

“And -Wow – did Seattle ever turn out for the Apple Cup on Sunday! I’d heard about how incredible this environment could be, and Sunday’s game lived up to all of the hype. I truly believe there is no tougher place for opponents to play than a sold-out Alaska Airlines Arena. That type of atmosphere is what makes college basketball so special.”

Washington (15-6, 5-3 Pac-12) plays No. 25 Arizona State (16-5, 4-5) 8 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena.