Hopkins on being linked to Pitt job: "Don't believe what you read."
Despite reports linking him to the Pittsburgh job, Mike Hopkins said he’s happy at Washington and plans to return next season to coach the Huskies men’s basketball team.
“Don’t believe what you read,” Hopkins said. “Three months ago I was (reportedly) involved with three different jobs. At the end of the day, me and my family are exceptionally happy here.
“I work for a great leader in (athletic director) Jen Cohen. I wanted to go some place where we can build something special and be part of a great organization and surround yourself with great people. And I think I’ve done that. I love it here. Looknig forward to building on what we did this year. I think we can make another major step forward. It’s simple.”
Hopkins, who was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year and the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 20 Coach of the Year, guided Washington to a 12-win improvement and a 21-13 record during his first year with the Huskies.
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Washington tied for sixth in the Pac-12 at 10-8 and finished its season at Saint Mary’s on Monday with a second-round loss in the National Invitation Tournament.
Hopkins has been linked with the coaching vacancy at Pittsburgh. Citing unnamed sources, Adam Zagoria and Sean Bock of Zagsblog reported Pitt officials have had contact with Hopkins. On Wednesday night, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted Hopkins is a possible candidate for Pitt.
The Hopkins-to-Pitt theory is based largely on his 22-year tenure as a Syracuse assistant before taking the UW job.
Last year, Hopkins signed a six-year, $12.3 million contract that paid him $1.8 million this season and includes an annual $100,000 raise. He’s scheduled to make $2.3 million in the final year of the deal that expires after the 2022-23 season.
If Hopkins leaves this year, he will owe UW $2 million. The buyout decreases the longer he stays and would be $500,000 in his fifth year.
On Thursday, Hopkins said he has unfinished business with the Huskies who came close to snapping their seven-year NCAA tournament drought.
“I’ll never probably say it’s a successful season until we win the national championship,” Hopkins said. “That’s what we strive to do. I didn’t come here to make the NIT or make the NCAA. I wanted to come and make noise and build something that’s the pride of college basketball.”
The Huskies are expected to be a Pac-12 title contender because their starting five should return, the top 10 scorers have eligibility and they bring in a top-30 recruiting class that includes two prospects (center Bryan Penn-Johnson and guard Jamal Bey) ranked among ESPN’s top 100.
Hopkins knows he’ll continue to be linked with coaching vacancies if Washington continues on its current upward trajectory. The rumors will certainly increase whenever Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who turns 74 in November, decides to retire.
Hopkins isn’t bothered by the coaching speculation, but admits it creates interesting conversations with his wife Tricia.
“My wife will say ‘Honey, I heard so and so. I heard so and so is leaving and you’re … That’s what they’re saying.’ ” he said. “I’m like, honey don’t talk to me. I love you, but you got to hold that one back.”