There’s a reason that Best Original Screenplay is considered a more prestigious award than Best Adapted.
Commendable as winning the latter may be, an original script is birthed, nurtured and raised by the writer — nobody else’s paws touch it.
Amending a work into something great is grand. Creating a work into something great is grander. Such feats are reserved for the true visionaries in the field.
Which brings us to Huskies basketball coach Mike Hopkins.
In his first two years on the job, Hopkins turned the talent he inherited into one of the better programs in the country. After his predecessor, Lorenzo Romar, finished with a 9-22 record, Hopkins came in and won 21 games his first season and 27 his second — all while capturing a Pac-12 title and earning an NCAA Tournament bid.
It was everything you would want out of an adaptation. A near masterpiece, really.
But in the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in Huskies history, a question arises: Can Hopkins build a program?
Last year, four of the top five minute-getters for Washington were seniors, and all five were Romar recruits. Yes, Hopkins deserves credit for keeping players such as Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp and Noah Dickerson — each of whom could have left — but they weren’t the pieces he hand-picked. Those have come in the form of freshmen Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, along with fellow five-star recruit Quade Green, which initially gave the impression that Hopkins was just as good a recruiter as he was a coach.
But as Washington (12-14, 2-11 in the Pac-12) sits in last place in the conference, the program’s future looks tenuous.
It seems every couple of weeks, the once highly anticipated Huskies hoops season gets a new downgrade. When Green was ruled academically ineligible after the first two conference games, it was daunting. When the Huskies blew late second-half leads against Cal, Utah and Oregon over the next couple of weeks, it was disappointing. And as the Huskies lie in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, it has become utterly disastrous.
The only chance Washington has of making the NCAA Tournament is to win the Pac-12 tourney, which looks nothing short of fanciful at this point. When you lead the conference in turnovers per game and are without your starting point guard, uber-talented youngsters aren’t enough.
Worse, this 2-11 team will almost certainly lose its two leading scorers in Stewart and McDaniels to the NBA after the season, and may lose its third-leading scorer in Nahziah Carter, too.
Do you think about how recruits will see this program amid this skid? I asked Hopkins Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, getting the best talent, or the right talent is part of being a program. But I’ve always believed the best recruits are the players on your team,” said Hopkins, who said he doesn’t like to recruit during the season anyway. “It’s how you treat the kids in your program. It’s like anything — it’s word of mouth.”
Hopkins is saying that one down year shouldn’t torpedo a program, and that proper treatment and development of his players will lead to future commits from high-caliber guys. Still, this downturn has to be more than a little frightening.
It’s worth noting that eight of the Huskies’ losses in the Pac-12 have come by six points or less. And it isn’t delusional to wonder if they might be at the top of the conference if they still had Green, whose ability to create shots for teammates has gone unmatched.
But when a team incessantly crumbles in crunch time and virtually falls apart after the loss of one starter, is it fair to raise concerns about the coaching?
To Hopkins’ credit, he has maintained his inimitable sunny disposition throughout this skid. He has resisted the temptation to “go into a cave” and scream “I want my Doritos!” as he remarked Wednesday.
There are signs that this winning drought is getting to him, though.
After cracking a joke during Wednesday’s news conference, Hopkins smiled and said, “Made you laugh. Better than crying.”
The man is trying to build something of his own at Washington, but it keeps collapsing on him. Even for a guy like Hopkins, that can make laughs hard to come by.