Let’s call this season what it was. The team had great coaching. Plain and simple. The starting five were primarily the same starting five from the previous season, with the exception of taking out Markelle Fultz and substituting in Jaylen Nowell. And they turned it around in one season. In fact, the team’s 10-8 Pac-12 Conference record was the first over-.500 record for the team since 2011-2012 season. That is the same year the team won more than 21 wins. So Coach Hopkins debut improved the team to levels not witnessed for five years. How?
The optics on the team suggest better overall defense. And the box stats confirm that to be the case. The team improved by 8.1 points surrendered in one season. And in the process, the team boasted the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in Matisse Thybulle.
Hopkins arrived confident in his players. And that confidence was contagious. He arrived with a simple message. #TougherTogether. And he came with a simple plan – defense, player development, free throw shooting. We discussed team defense and will talk about player development. But how did the team do at the foul line? Well, the team improved from 65.4 percent to 70.1 percent. And even without player development, two out of three aint bad, right?
Simple plan, simple dream. And in that delivery of a simple but very effective plan, Coach Hopkins earned recognition among his peers. From Pac-12 Coach of the Year to NABC District 20 Coach of the Year.
But coaching is more than whiteboards or awards. It’s connecting with players, alumni, and fans. Perhaps most of all, it’s connecting to new prospects.