CORVALLIS, Ore. — Mike Hopkins was placed in COVID protocol shortly before Huskies’ game Thursday, which forced the Washington men’s basketball team to play Oregon State at Gill Coliseum without their fifth-year coach.
Assistant coach Will Conroy stepped in as acting head coach.
It’s the first time Hopkins has missed a UW game since taking over the program in 2017.
A little more than 24 hours before going into COVID protocol, Hopkins talked about continuing momentum for the Huskies (8-7, 3-2 Pac-12) that was riding a two-game winning streak.
“The biggest thing for us is, how do we keep getting better?” Hopkins said Wednesday during a Zoom interview. “After watching the film, there’s so many different areas we can improve and keep getting better, and that’s what we’re focused on.
“These kids have done a really good job of really getting to know our defenses better, our offensive sets. And there’s still a little bit of slippage, as much as we played really well in a lot of spurts, there’s a lot of room for growth. And that’s what we’re really focused on. We believe that if we can do that then we’ll keep getting chances to win every game that we play.”
Washington has dealt with COVID-related disruptions all season starting postponed games against Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and a canceled game versus Gonzaga.
During a 68-52 nonconference loss to Utah Valley on Dec. 21, senior guard Jamal Bey and Husky assistants Wyking Jones, Quincy Pondexter and Conroy were absent while in COVID protocols.
Thursday’s game was the first time Conroy has been a head coach at any level. The former Husky standout point guard, who holds the school’s all-time assist record, joined the coaching staff in 2015.
Earlier this month, Hopkins talked about the difficulty of playing through a pandemic and dealing with the uncertainty of COVID, urging the team to “control what you can control.”
“Lose a player, lose a coach or can’t practice, those types of things are things you can’t control,” he said ahead of UW’s Pac-12 opener against Arizona. “So it just becomes, be the best you can every day. That’s what you can control. Just try to be the best you can. That’s been kind of our motto moving forward. That’s all we can do.”
The latest disruption comes on the heels of UW’s sweep of Cal and Stanford last week and a high point thus far in a previously disappointing season.
UW backup center Riley Sorn, who was placed in COVID protocols two weeks ago and missed four games, returned Thursday.