Warm Welcome For New UW Basketball Coach, Except From Top Recruit

Mar 24, 2017

The University of Washington officially introduced its new head basketball coach to players and the public this week. Longtime Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins replaced the fired Lorenzo Romar.

KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick about Hopkins.

Editor's note: Former UW star recruit Michael Porter Jr. announced Friday he will attend the University of Missouri. The audio and text have been updated to reflect that news.

Thiel said it's no surprise why Washington wanted Hopkins.

"He's a very engaging, charming, high-energy guy. And that was made plain by all the references that he brought from the college basketball world," he said.

"He's a very dynamic guy and, I think, a lot of people were impressed. You couldn't help but be impressed by the guy.

"His endorsement from [Duke coach] Mike Krzyzewski to his boss, Jim Boeheim, at Syracuse and, particularly, his tenure as an assistant coach with USA Basketball. [That's] the organization that puts forward high school and college teams, and the Olympic team, in international competitions.

"Everyone who has been around him there has said from a local, national and international background, he's the guy.

"He's an excellent recruiter and he knows the Xs and Os part. So, I'm not surprised why Washington spotted him and pulled him away."

Why Did Hopkins Pick UW Over Syracuse?

Hopkins was a 21-year assistant at Syracuse and the designated successor to legendary coach Jim Boeheim. The question is why he chose Washington over the Orange.

"That was the real surprise," Thiel said. "Because everyone thought it doesn't get any better in college basketball, really. I mean, yes, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky. But certainly Syracuse is in the next tier of great programs.

"But, actually, that's why he didn't want to be there. Because he would be forever in the shadow of his predecessor.

"Jim Boeheim is a legendary figure. And, as soon as Hopkins had his first three-game losing streak as head coach, everyone would've said, 'Well, he's not Jim Boeheim. Should've done a national search. He doesn't have the chops, blah, blah, blah.'

"Well, Lorenzo Romar didn't leave a big shadow after missing the NCAA tournament six years in a row. Hopkins has a chance to build a powerhouse here, if he can, because no one is going to be comparing him to Romar."

Top Recruit Wanted Out

What Romar did leave behind is a stellar recruiting class for next year. But the star recruit in that class, Michael Porter Jr., this week requested to be released from his signed national letter of intent for the University of Washington. The university granted that request.

Porter was named the national player of the year after leading Seattle's Nathan Hale High School to an undefeated season and the Washington state boys 3A high school basketball championship.

Porter Jr. announced Friday that he will be attending the University of Missouri, where his father, Michael Porter Sr., has just accepted an assistant coaching job.

Porter Jr. was released from his letter of intent by Washington on Thursday. He had committed to the Huskies in July, two months after his father became an assistant coach at Washington under Lorenzo Romar. Romar was fired last week after 15 seasons.

ESPN reports the Porters lived in Missouri before heading to Seattle, and Porter Sr. was an assistant women's coach at Missouri for three seasons. Porter Jr.'s sisters play at Missouri, and his aunt is the head women's coach.

"Romar and Porter Sr. are friends from 30 years back," Thiel said. "Porter Sr. moved his whole family out here for that one year [as assistant UW coach] and the anticipation was that Porter Jr. and his younger brother, Jontay, would be Huskies. Well, that isn't happening.

"The first action of Hopkins in his duty as Washington coach should've been to call Porter Jr. or Porter Sr. and that didn't happen.

"Maybe he doesn't want Porter but he was the best player in the country last year. A courtesy call would've helped.

"So, that was kind of an awkward misstep at the beginning. But, I think, most Husky fans are pretty excited about this guy."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.