As expected, the Huskies lost in the opener of the Pac-12 tournament. It was the very first game of the set, and I immediately stopped paying attention beyond that moment. *Checks
notes ESPN.com* it looks like Arizona defeated UCLA to take the conference crown in a slight upset. Those are easily the best two teams in the Pac though, so don’t be surprised if they go relatively far. I was surprised to see USC as a 10-seed, after their pitiful showing in the conference tourney; I was less surprised to see ASU as an 11-seed play-in team. They’re not great, but they have a great win here and there.
This isn’t about the rest of the conference, though. This is about YOUR 16-16 Washington Huskies. It was announced over the weekend that Mike Hopkins would be returning. Normally, you don’t need to release a statement confirming someone still has his job when he’s got multiple years left on his contract. But, given the discourse of late – and the disappointing results we’ve seen since last making the NCAA Tournament in 2019 – it really felt like the Huskies were set to make a change.
As has been discussed, though, Washington still owes him a combined $6.3 million over the next two seasons. That by itself isn’t enough to dictate inaction, but when you throw in Jimmy Lake’s figure (over $6 million for the next two years), all his fired football assistants (and Hop’s basketball assistants), the cost of a new basketball coaching staff, and all the raises Kalen DeBoer and his staff have received after just one season (not to mention all the NIL money being raised to start paying these players, on the football team especially), there’s only so much a school like Washington can reasonably hope to do.
I wouldn’t call Washington a “mid-major”, but I would say we are a tier between mid-majors and true power five schools. We don’t have the reach of these national programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the like. We don’t have the fans attending these games, nor do we have the television numbers to even remotely compete. But, we’re not chopped liver either. What we’ve come to terms with is that Washington is a football school. That’s not a knock; it’s not a bad thing. But, we’re NOT a basketball school. We’re not trying to be all things to all sports. We’re (smartly, rightly) putting all of our chips into the football basket. That’s where the bulk of our boosters live, that’s where the bulk of the money in college athletics lives, and that’s where we’ve traditionally made the biggest sporting impact (all apologies to the rowers and whatnot, in the lesser sports who win championships to zero acclaim).
So, the money is going to football. We’re shooting our shot – so to speak – on the football team making a serious run at the playoffs in 2023. And, somewhat as a consequence, we’re letting the basketball program stagnate under Mike Hopkins, either until his contract runs out, or until he becomes cheap enough to be fired without having to eat an unreasonable sum.
I thought the Hopkins debacle was all summed up perfectly over at UW Dawg Pound. I was happy to learn that Jamal Bey is, indeed, done with college basketball. I was a little dismayed to learn that even though he was celebrated on Senior Day, Cole Bajema is planning to return. Also, I find it incredibly interesting to discover we’re looking to convince Keion Brooks to come back.
Langston Wilson entered the transfer portal – to no one’s shock – and there might be others looking to leave. But I really wonder what this team might look like if most-everyone came back. Not that I think we’d be world beaters, or even contenders for the conference title, but it’s been exceedingly rare for a Mike Hopkins team to have any semblance of continuity. He had it in 2019 – again, with mostly holdovers from Romar’s regime – and we actually did something of value for once. Not that I think lightning would strike twice, but you never know.
I want to have strong feelings about the Huskies keeping Mike Hopkins, because I like Husky basketball. I like it when we’re good, when Hec Ed is rocking and rolling, and when we’re making our presence felt on a national stage. Winning that game in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 was a truly magical experience, and I want more of that!
But, I’m just so God damned beaten down. The atrocious Mike Hopkins “offense”. The zone defense that couldn’t catch a cold. His impotent sideline antics. Our piddling assistant coaching staff. Our non-existent local recruiting abilities.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been spoiled as a Husky basketball fan. I jumped on the bandwagon at peak Romar era. Even his most mediocre teams were somewhat interesting. He always had at least one or two interesting guys. And while his offense wasn’t any sort of great shakes, at least he had players with real offensive abilities. Guys who could drive the lane, create for themselves, or kick out to a bevy of three-point shooters.
There’s nothing interesting about the guys Hopkins has brought in, other than Terrell Brown. There’s truly nothing interesting about the transfer portal, now that we know what it really is. It’s just one more way to lose your very best players, while replacing them with lesser rejects who couldn’t hack it on relevant teams.
So, you know, I’ll go through the motions of paying attention to the Huskies when they’re on TV. But, I’m not getting my hopes up. We’ll continue to underwhelm in 2023/2024, and if Hop is still here on a final lame-duck season, that’ll be a disaster of all disasters. This is going to hurt his ability to recruit, his ability to keep our “committed” guys, and probably any chance of putting out a non-embarrassing product on the court. This could get REALLY ugly.
The last thing we wanted after Hopkins won those back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards was for him to get poached to a bigger program. Who knew it would’ve been the best possible outcome for all involved? Certainly for us, but also for Hopkins. Ironically, the Syracuse head coaching gig just opened up for next season (for the first time in nearly 50 years). Maybe Hop can one day get hired on to be an assistant again.