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Dennis Hopson is in his second season as the Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.
In his first season at Lourdes, and as a collegiate head coach, Hopson led the Gray Wolves to a 20-11 record and a tie for third place in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.
A native of Toledo, Hopson arrived at Lourdes with more than 30 years of basketball coaching, recruiting, and playing experience.
Hopson played in the NBA for five seasons. He was the third pick overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets, where he played for three years. He also had stints with the Chicago Bulls, where he won a NBA Championship, and the Sacramento Kings. Following his NBA career, Hopson played seven more years in Europe.
Upon retiring from his playing career, Hopson was a regional scout for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2003-2004 before moving into the coaching ranks.
He began his collegiate coaching career at Northwood University, where he served as an assistant coach for two years under head coach Rollie Massimino. Hopson spent 2009-2014 as an assistant coach at Bowling Green State University for coach Louis Orr. Hopson worked one season as the head boys coach at Bedford High School and also served as the Director of Basketball Operations for the YMCA of Greater Toledo prior to his arrival at Lourdes.
Hopson was a standout player at The Ohio State University, where he was an All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1987. He is the Buckeyes’ all-time leading scorer, tallying 2,096 points during his four-year career. He also holds the school’s single season scoring record with 958 points in 1986-1987, a season in which he finished second nationally in scoring. A member of the Ohio State Hall of Fame Class of 1994, Hopson was named to the John Wooden Award All-American Team and was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection in 1987.
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Grab your pen and paper so you can take some notes as you listen to this episode with Dennis Hopson, Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.
What We Discuss with Dennis Hopson
- The story of why he didn’t play basketball as a high school freshman
- Why he originally committed to University of Cinncinnati, but ended up at Ohio State
- Getting serious about the game at Ohio State
- Coach Eldon Miller getting fired after his junior year and Gary Williams being hired at Ohio State
- His senior season when he averaged 29 points per game and was 1st team All-American
- Being self-taught as a player growing up on the concrete playground
- How he used film to improve his game at Ohio State
- The differences between Eldon Miller and Gary Williams
- His memories from playing in St. John Arena and how the fans were right on top of the court
- Preparing for the NBA Draft, he knew he would be picked in the top 4
- Getting drafted by the New Jersey Nets at #3 after David Robinson and Armen Gilliam
- The toughest adjustment was being a midwestern kid moving to the east coast
- Why he would have a more selfish mindset if he could replay his time with the Nets
- The difficult situation he faced in New Jersey with multiple owners and 4 different head coaches
- Getting traded to Chicago after his third year when he led the Nets in scoring
- Why he wasn’t excited to join Michael Jordan and the Bulls
- Winning the NBA Championship with the Bulls, but feeling that it had set back his development
- Every Jordan story he could tell would involve Michael being a super competitor
- The only times he brings out his championship ring
- Why he turned down a one year deal from Sacramento on the advice of his agent and how that forced him to play overseas
- Going back to Ohio State to get his degree after his playing career ended
- Starting out as a scout for the Sixers and then getting his first coaching job with Rollie Massamino
- Becoming an assistant at Bowling Green for Louis Orr
- Why he didn’t like his one year coaching in high school
- “When you’re a player, it’s all about you. You worry about you. As a coach, you got to worry about a team.”
- The difference in motivation between the D1 and NAIA level
- “The worst thing that you can experience as a coach is not knowing your team, not knowing what team you’re going to get from game to game.”
- Trying to learn your team and get the most from each individual player
- “Just let them know that you care and keep your door open.”
- How the understanding of nutrition has changed since he played
- What he looks for in a player during AAU and also during their high school season
- Why he wants to know a recruit’s parents, friends, and people he hangs out with
- “I don’t play you. You play yourself.”
- His advice for high school players’ parent – just let you’re kid go out and play, let the colleges evaluate him
- Captains? Whose attitude do you want this team to take after?
- “If you’re a player, what you’re trying to get somebody to do, you gotta make sure that you’re doing it.”
- Developing patience as a coach when players can’t see the same things he can
- “If you’re not the best at that time. You better figure out what the best is doing. And you better be able to do it the same, or do it better.”
- The challenge of not having full scholarships at Lourdes
- The joy that comes from sharing his knowledge of the game and life with the players he coaches
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THANKS, DENNIS HOPSON
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TRANSCRIPT FOR DENNIS HOPSON – LOURDES UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 413
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing without my co-host Jason Sunkle, who is taking care of his young daughter tonight. So he left me Han Solo, but I am pleased to be welcoming to the podcast tonight. Dennis Hopson, the head men’s basketball coach at Lourdes University, former NBA player, the all-time leading scorer at the Ohio State University as a player.
Dennis, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Dennis Hopson: [00:00:26] Appreciate it, Mike. Thanks for having me on, man.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:30] I am super excited to be able to have a conversation with you and just learn about all the different things that you’ve been able to do in the game of basketball. Obviously you have a long and storied career, both as a player and as a coach.
So I want to go back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about your first experiences with the game of basketball or what made you fall in love with the game as a young kid.
Dennis Hopson: [00:00:52] Well, I don’t know if I fell in love with it, as I will say, I had other things that I enjoyed doing. And if you asked me [00:01:00] if I wanted to be a professional athlete, when I was that age, I would tell you no.
But I think it all started early. And I think what it was, I was a little more skilled than the rest of the kids that I play with and played against. And it started in elementary, fifth and sixth grade, and then went on to junior high and then it went on to Bowsher high school.
And I think. Really turned a corner at Bowsher high school in regards to my play, because I had a great supporting cast all the way through, but I think my high school coach, he recognized the talent that I had in me. And he really made me understand that I could do something with the game of basketball and with that I had a great sophomore, junior and senior season because like a lot of people don’t know. I didn’t play as a freshman in high school.
Mike Klinzing: [00:01:54] Yeah. I read that. Tell us that story. I’m fascinated by it. I’m fascinated by that.
Dennis Hopson: [00:01:57] Man. You know, it was one of [00:02:00] those things where I think it was a little bit of being spoiled and a little bit of being very, very immature.
So I didn’t play, I would rather work, which I did. I worked at McDonald’s and the reason for me working there was I wanted a car that I wanted to do use certain things and special things to my car. So it was a way for me to make money to where I can do some things to my car.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:27] So the car was a project. It wasn’t that you wanted to go somewhere. It was that the car was a project for you.
Dennis Hopson: [00:02:33] It was something that I loved and enjoyed. Man. I’ll always love cars and I still love cars. And Again, it kind of took me away from basketball. And it’s funny because, you know had, I had one of the nicest cars at the age of 16, around the city of Toledo.
So you know, working a job for me was more important at that time. But again, as time went on my sophomore year I kind of got a feel for [00:03:00] the game, played well. And then at the end of my sophomore year, I was on JV and they bought me up to varsity for like the last three or four games I do believe and was able to fare well on the varsity level.
And then next year, which was my junior year, man had a bang out season. I had a great season was first team, all city. All state player and then went onto my senior year and same thing, or was a C league player of year, first team, all state and finished second to Kanara Johnson for it wasn’t called Mr. Basketball back then it was just player of the year in the state. So I finished second to him. And after that senior year, or during that senior year, I should say I was being recruited by a lot of different schools and a lot of people don’t notice either Mike I committed to the University of Cincinnati on a verbal commitment to University of Cincinnati, but the coach back then was Ed Badger and Ed Badger had gotten fired.
So I [00:04:00] can’t recall exactly what they called it that, but yeah, I’m gonna use your word. Decommitted from Cincinnati and committed to the Ohio State University. And again, I think I was a kid with a lot of talent and grace at a very young age and same thing held true.
What I would do at Ohio State. But the big thing was is that I really didn’t understand the game of basketball, I played it, but I didn’t really understand it. Started the majority of the years of freshmen played pretty decent. But then my sophomore year with a four starter and that’s when things really started to click that’s when I started to work on my craft a little more, I started watching film because that was available on the college level.
Unlike the high school level. And I had a bang out sophomore year. And then my junior year, I really turned it on and I played with a guy by the name of Brad Sellers. He was a senior. [00:05:00] And, my junior year, I was 20 points a game, and he was a center senior.
He went on to be drafted by Chicago. And after that junior year, I felt that I had an opportunity to become an NBA player and my senior year I was picked as one of the top players in the league and I had a bang out senior year. And it’s funny because our coach got fired my junior year, but he finished out the season.
He got fired Eldon Miller got fired towards the end of the year, but he finished out the year with us and we went on a run in the tournament that year. And again, I led a team in scoring and when he got fired, it was one of those things where, well, who’s coming in, who’s going to come in and coach you if he going to allow you to do what coach Miller allowed me to do during his time at Ohio State.
And sure enough, a guy by the name of Gary Williams got [00:06:00] hired. And I was very excited because they had just got through kicking our butts on CBS, on national TV when he was with Boston College, that same year, my junior year. And I just loved the way that he played. I loved the style. So Gary Williams had come to Ohio state my senior year and he allowed me to do what I wanted to do within the concept of the team.
And I ended up averaging 29 points of the game. Second in the nation in scoring. And you know, big 10 player of the year, all American, got a lot of great awards and none of that would have happened without the great teammates that I played with because they allowed me to be me. And they put me in certain situations to where I could be successful.
And after that year I was considered either number one or number two, shoot and garden country behind Reggie Williams. You know, certain people would say Reggie was number one. Certain people would say I was number one. So no matter what, it was either going to be me or him [00:07:00] that went to the New Jersey Nets or the Los Angeles Clippers.
And I was fortunate to go third to the New Jersey Nets. And he went fourth to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:11] Because you had a rep, could you wrap your head around that at that point in your life going kind of from, Hey, I’m not even going to go out for the basketball team as a freshman because I want to work and I want to have this car.
It was just something that was, it’s something that in the moment that you were processing, because it was gradual enough or what just, what was your mindset like at that point?
Dennis Hopson: [00:07:30] Yeah, I think after my junior year, Again, I never had big expectations. When I went to Ohio State I know you can ask some young kids now when they’re young nine, 10, 11 years old, what do you want to be?
The first thing you’re going to see is some type of professional athlete football, or basketball. But for me, that just wasn’t the case back then. So to answer your question, if I could wrap my mind around it, I probably didn’t start thinking [00:08:00] about that or visit thinking that I was going to be visualizing that until my junior year.
You learn how to play this game. Pretty decent. You might have a shot at the next level. And when you start reading about yourself or people are telling you what they’ve read in different publications and that type of thing it just kind of lets you know, kinda can reaffirmed, confirms, that you might have an opportunity to take this and do something with it.
Out of Ohio state. I was able to do that, man. So yeah, It was a thing too, where I probably didn’t start thinking about it until my junior year in college.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:41] How would you go about, like, what is your summers look like from the time you are in high school through the time you’re at Ohio state?
How did your preparation for the season changed from, let’s say, between your sophomore and junior year of high school, where that’s kind of where you take that first leap, your JV players, a sophomore, you [00:09:00] call up the varsity the end of the year. And then the next year you make this leap to where you’re now going to become a major college prospect all the way up through.
Okay. Now you’re at Ohio state. Clearly you’re having a lot of success there. What are your summers look like in terms of you working on your game and improving? Are you playing pickup ball places? Are you in the gym by yourself? What’s that look like?
Dennis Hopson: [00:09:19] Well, you’re on the concrete back then we were talking about the eighties.
You’re on concrete you know, in 80 degree weather outside, but on the concrete is probably a hundred degrees. But, you’re out here and you’re just, self-taught Mike you’re self-taught as far as the personal trainers and the shooting machines and all the things that the kids have today.
We didn’t have that back then. You’re self-taught but we just played, man. We played signup the sun down. And again, I was able to be effective and efficient without all the things that the [00:10:00] kids have today, because I just had a better understanding of the game. Now, did I know what was going on like that?
I could put myself a step ahead of the people that I was playing, no matter who it was older, younger, Always a step ahead, but we just played. We were self-taught back then, man. And I think again like I mentioned a little bit ago, I think it really clicked for me after my sophomore year in college.
That’s when I really started to go out and do individual skill work wherever I can do that. At the university or the courts on campus outside and just work at it, man, it just started a thing. The other thing that helped my growth was, is watching film. I watched a ton of film back then I watch myself, I watched my opponents and having great teammates mandated that allowed me to be [00:11:00] me.
That was very helpful as well,.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:03] When you were back in that era, wherever you going to play, where were you finding games?
Dennis Hopson: [00:11:08] Ryder park. So we call rider park, R Y D E R park here in Toledo, Ohio. That’s where I grew up playing and played all the way through man.
And again, like I said, we had a lot of talent here, so they would come to our side of town to play at our park. We would go to their side of town and play at your parks. So we always had good runs we never had to worry about finding a competitive game.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:35] It’s amazing how different the basketball world is today.
When you think about that era, I’m 50. So I grew up sort of in the same area that you do. It’s just incredible to think about. I remember driving around and going to find places here in Cleveland. I got to find this gym and on a Tuesday on a Tuesday night, this is the court where guys are going to be playing and not on a Sunday night, this is where you need to be.
And it’s just now you look at the way they. Kids grow up. And obviously there’s a [00:12:00] huge number of advantages that kids have. And you mentioned a couple of them just to have a gym access and trainers that have the shooting machine and the number of reps you can get. But I think there’s something to be said for going and just playing pickup games against people of all different ages and from all different communities and backgrounds, races and everything else.
And it’s just, I think there’s an education that. Kids do they miss out on that? You and I were lucky enough to be able to participate in just because you’re playing against people from all different walks of life and all different ages. And I think you learn things not only about yourself as a basketball player, but I think you also develop as a human being, being put into those environments as well.
Dennis Hopson: [00:12:35] Yeah, you do. I mean, again, you just said it you’re playing against different personalities, different attitudes, and again, more importantly, you’re self-taught you learn how to adjust. Without somebody right there by your side you adjust. So if you, you got to play a game of basketball, you adjust, [00:13:00] it unlike today with the kids today.
So yeah, I think I had an opportunity to make it okay. For one, but then more importantly, I had an opportunity to learn from some of the older guys around town because they took me under their wings. That I had an opportunity to be around good people, man, good family mom, dad, brothers, and sisters, people in the community, people in the neighborhood so I think again, all that had a lot to do with my growth as a person and a basketball player.
Mike Klinzing: [00:13:30] When you think back to your time at Ohio state, what were the differences between coach Miller and coach Williams? When you think back to the three years spent with coach Miller, and then the one year you spent with coach Williams,
Dennis Hopson: [00:13:42] Both great, but the difference between the two was coach Miller was very conservative.
Okay. If you were a freshmen more than likely you were going to have to learn. Okay. And I was okay with learning. Alright. I [00:14:00] was fortunate because I would learn them, but I still had the opportunity to play a lot. If not start again, probably started half of the game as a freshmen.
Coach Miller was big on the fundamentals. Okay. Talk fundamentals. Now Gary Williams gets there. That wasn’t his thing. His thing was, if you’re going to be on this level, you should already know fundamentals. Okay. Or you should go somewhere else.
You shouldn’t be here. Okay. His thing was, I need to implement my full court pressure. I need to implement some offense and we need a, here’s a basketball, you guys. Okay. So again, you have a conservative coach my first three years, and then you had a coach that was very aggressive, very uptempo type of style, right?
So again, I learned from both and again, I think that, and I do it now as a coach. I think working on skill work is very, very important if you have 20 minutes a day in practice. Okay. But at the end of the end, I think again, [00:15:00] when you’re playing basketball, depending on what level you’re on, you should have a good feel for the game.
So I learned from both, I learned from coach Miller and I learned from, from coach Williams.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:11] They ask you that you took that attitude. I think sometimes obviously you can get caught up and there’s a coaching change and sometimes players get stuck where one guy you meshed with and then the next guy comes in.
And for whatever reason, it doesn’t mesh. And obviously you had a different level of talent than what most people have when you go through a coaching change, but still to be able to adapt and adjust and see the positive in both guys. Clearly there’s a credit to you. When you think back to your time there, what’s your favorite memory of.
St John arena. When I think of Ohio state basketball, despite the fact that obviously they’re playing at the shot now and probably school championships, aren’t at St. John arena anymore. But when I think of Ohio state basketball and I think of Ohio high school basketball, I still think of St. John arena.
So what’s your favorite memory of playing in St. John,
Dennis Hopson: [00:15:56] The fans? You know, I mean it was, it was a [00:16:00] it was a intimate place to play because everybody was right there. You know, if you’re sitting on a bench, you could turn around and you give somebody five. I mean, they’re there. They’re right there.
You’re right on top. And it just made for a warm feeling, man, when you run up and down the court, man, and, and you’ve got people sitting right there on top of you. So if I had to say, or pick one thing, it would be the fans, man, because you run out to 14,000 that St John’s would hold as far as the fans.
And it was full every night, man cheering us on. So that was an experience and a feeling that if somebody asks me about St. John arena, that’s the first thing that’s going to come to mind is the fans.
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:50] Yeah, it makes total sense. I think that there’s when you, when you get an opportunity and I’ve been in places where you play in front of a packed house and [00:17:00] fans, and then I’ve been in situations where you play, where there’s almost nobody there And when you get an opportunity to play in front of. A packed house, especially at that house at Ohio state and St. John arena, which as you said, fans are right on top of you. It just is such an intimate place. As you described the play basketball. To me, there’s nothing better than playing in front of a rabid fan base.
And that can be. Your own fans, obviously when you’re talking about a whole Marina, but I think it’s also fun to play coach in an environment where you’re on the road or you’re playing in that same you’re playing almost against the fans when they’re that much into it. I always had nearly as much fun playing on a, in a hostile road environment, as you do playing in a home environment,
Dennis Hopson: [00:17:40] You do, because it’s funny because you always hear that the fans are.
Or that six man, you always hear that. And they actually are. They actually are, man. I mean, there’s a lot of games that I’m sure teams win or have won because of the fans. And again, they [00:18:00] just, it gets everything flowing. It gets everything pumping. It generates excitement. So yeah, I mean, again, a place like St. John arena, and it’s funny because you know, on my visit. Or my visit to Ohio State. That was one of the things that excited me when I was there, the walking that around and to see all those people, it was big time. It was big time.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:21] Had you been at you ever been to an Ohio state basketball game before the recruiting, before he got involved in the recruiting process?
Dennis Hopson: [00:18:31] You know, if I have, I was young cause my sister graduated from Ohio State long time ago and Calvin Ramsey played with my brother in high school. So. He was one of the reasons why I went to Ohio state and but I can’t, if I have my, I can’t really put my finger on it. So it would probably, I mean, but what I can remember is, yeah, I did go when I was being recruited.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:53] Nice. All right. So let’s jump ahead to you getting prepared for the NBA [00:19:00] draft after your senior season at Ohio state, what do you remember about the pre-draft process and what you had to go through both in terms of your own preparation and then what it was like as teams try to decide whether or not they were going to draft you.
What do you remember about the whole process?
Dennis Hopson: [00:19:13] Well, I can’t remember some things you know, let me see you had I read them. I either was going to go first, second or third. Okay. But I knew David Robinson was in the draft, even though he wasn’t going to be able to play for the first couple of years.
Didn’t know what it was gonna look like. Okay. But was getting phone calls from New Jersey, Phoenix and Los Angeles Clippers. Okay. So I knew it could be two, three or four, and I went to visit all three of those teams. All three had me come for my interview and my workout. All right. And again, I, I knew I was either one or two, the first or second shooting guard and vice versa for Reggie Williams.
So [00:20:00] they bring you in and interview you, they’re going to work you out. And I had a great, great time. All the three different places that I went to being in New Jersey and the Clippers had a great time. I knew that some of those organizations though were pretty Down that they had been down for some years.
New Jersey was one of them and the Clippers they were just so, they weren’t very strong. It really just came down to the draft. But during that time leading up to that time, I didn’t play in Portsmith because the top guys didn’t play in Portsmith. Portsmith was a place for guys to play, to try to better their positioning in regards to the draft. But it wasn’t mandatory for the top guys to play in Portsmouth, which I don’t even know if they have now. I don’t think they have that anymore.
So your ad came around and you [00:21:00] had David Robinson, you had Armen Gilliam and then you had myself at three and you had Reggie Williams at four, and that was 87 drafts, which was a great, great, great, great draft class. You know some of those guys were going to be the 50 greatest players in the NBA.
So yeah, it was a great graph draft. I’m sorry. That year.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:23] So you get to New Jersey, just talk a little bit about what that adjustment was like from college to pro basketball. What did you immediately like about it? What was different about it? Just think back on that time, when you first got to New Jersey,
Dennis Hopson: [00:21:37] I’m going to tell you the number one thing for me is the East coast over the Midwest. Okay. For me, the East coast is fast. All right. The East coast is very, very fast. Is big versus me being a Toledo guy and then going down to Columbus to where Columbus is a little bigger than Toledo at the [00:22:00] time. I mean, it’s much bigger now.
So the, the biggest thing for me was a Midwestern kid going to the East coast. That was tough. That was tough away from family, a big place. You’re 21, 22 years old. So that was, that was really the toughest part for me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:20] Where’d you live that first year? Where did you buy a home?
What’d you what’d you do that first year?
Dennis Hopson: [00:22:25] I rented a house and I was living in a high rise in Seacaucus, New Jersey. Okay. And then right over the bridge was Manhattan. And then as time went on a couple of years later, or the following year, I’m sorry. I build a house out in Malware.
New Jersey. And that was out a little ways. But Buck Williams, he kind of took me under his wing and he kind of helped me as far as navigating my way through New Jersey and telling me what was good and what wasn’t good. Yeah, at the end as a player the biggest thing was my mindset.
[00:23:00] Versus me being drafted so high. Okay. If I could turn back the times and go back, I would have a completely different mindset and I don’t know another word I could use outside of a selfish mindset. Okay. I would have a very selfish mindset because those are the guys that survive. But I think the way that I played the game, my whole life coming up was I was always the team guy.
You know, even though I was 29 points a game as a senior, I was still second on the team in assist first on the team in steals. Okay. So I’ve always been taught to be a team guy. But again, I think you know, when you’re drafted high, the expectations are, you got to figure out how you’re going to turn this franchise round.
Okay. Well, I didn’t have that type of mindset. My mindset was fitting in to the franchise fitting in with the New Jersey Nets. Okay. Because you had Otis Birdsong [00:24:00] Okay. All star Buck Williams. Can you bark with all-star? So we had some very talented guys on the team. All right. But again, you’re still looked at as, okay.
You’re still looked at as the savior. All right, your, your high draft pick, you gotta come in here. You gotta make some noise. All right. Well, again, I crawl before I walk and I run, I should have done was I should have just started walking. Right? That makes sense.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:28] No, that makes total sense.
I think that is a case where. When you think about either, I think about players I’ve coached, or I think about my playing career, you think about trying to trying to fit in versus trying to, just trying to stand out. And I think a lot of times players, players do struggle with that. You struggle with that mentality and it’s a different, as you said, it’s a different mindset.
When you say coming in Hey, I’m the man versus, Hey, I’m going to come in and I want to contribute in a bunch of different ways and just kind [00:25:00] of. Be the guy who fits in and a lot of times, and I’m sure players all throughout the history of the NBA that have been top five picks that felt that pressure to some degree where it’s like, okay, if I’m picking the top five teams are expecting me to come in and as you said, instantly, turn that around and go from, Hey, we’re going from 23 wins.
We’re going to kind of win 50 games. And for most guys, that’s just not a, it’s just not realistic. And then B I think when you look at. Trying to get in there. And as you said, if you do try to fit in, then sometimes I think people tend to look at and be like, Hey, why isn’t this guy doing more? And it sounds like you felt like you should’ve just said, Hey, they’re going to live with my mistakes.
They’re going to live with me. Maybe you step it out of my comfort zone. I should have just gone for it. Instead of trying to fit in
Dennis Hopson: [00:25:46] Are you going to there was so many factors there you had. You had an unstable franchises that had been that way for some time. All right. [00:26:00] Good players.
But you know, just didn’t have the winning mindset. All right. And I think sometimes you can fall into or accept. Okay. Well, we’re losing who we are and I think some of those guys were at that point. Okay. When I got here, then the other thing too, Mike was. You know different owners. I think we had like 10 or 12 owners at the time.
Right. And then I had, during my time there, I had four different coaches, five different coaches guys didn’t hire the day. We all got fired after our first, which was the head coach, our first 19 games or so I don’t know he, but he got fired. They bring somebody else in. Okay. So it was for me.
It was a tough situation, no excuses here, but it was a tough situation. And I was used to consistency. I just came from consistency my whole life. So that was kind of tough, but again I can’t worry by [00:27:00] now. All I can, all that I can do is educate other guys that might have that opportunity to go on and play at that level or any level for that fact.
Any level that that’s what I’m here for.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:16] I think that’s so true. Yeah. I think the situation, I think you, you hear a lot of times you’ll hear announcers talk about, Hey, this guy’s got to go to the right situation or you’ll hear about. You know, some draft ticks. And when you’re talking about the NBA draft, I think this happens every year where they’ll talk about, well, if this guy goes to this situation, it’s going to be perfect for him because it’s a stable organization.
That coach has been there for three or four years. He’s got veteran guys who are professionals that know what to do. And so if he comes into this environment, it’s going to be perfect. Conversely, he could go to organization X, where, as you said, they’ve had five coaches in the last three years and they’ve had all this turnover.
And I think there’s something to be said for that, that you have to be in [00:28:00] position. And I think if you take that to coaching, one of the things that’s your job as a coach is to. Put your players in the best position to be able to help them to succeed. And I think that when you look at not just your career, but there’s a lot of guys that you could look at their career and say, man, this guy who was such a talented player, ended up just going to a situation that maybe didn’t maximize their potential of what they could have been.
And it’s you know, I think that that’s something that happens to, it probably happens more than any of us would like to think about.
Dennis Hopson: [00:28:31] Right, right, right. Because you can’t, my thing is like I tell people. You can’t go from being able to play one day to not be not being able to play on Tuesday, to not being able to play on Wednesday
Situations and fit are very, very important. I mean in whatever it is that you do is we’re working a nine to five job. I mean, if the situation is not right, it’s a bad fit. Based not more on to [00:29:00] be a great environment for you, your employer, whoever you’re working for. So it was one of those things, but you know, when on average, I think, I think nine point something my rookie year to 12 point something my second year to leading them in scoring my third year. Okay. Now, during this time, My okay. Again, after going through coaches and different things. Now we get Bill Fitch in there. Okay. Well, Bill Fitch’s thing was, we didn’t see eye to eye. And again, if I had to do it all over again, I was young.
Probably will understand a little more because now I’m a coach, but I don’t want to hear about what you should go on with your boss. Yes. I don’t want to hear about Larry Bird, Robert Pearson, those guys I’m trying to make a name for myself. They already have a name. So we didn’t see eye to eye and actually that third year of the leading the team in scoring, I guess there was some type of a trade value there.
[00:30:00] And they traded me on to Chicago, you know was pissed about that trade because a lot of people were excited about it because my thing was I’m on my way. Now I’m getting a feel for the NBA game. I’m starting to come around. Where are you going to send me here to where I’m going to be playing behind the best player in the world.
Okay. And it’s just going to kind of stunt my growth a little bit, cause I’m not going to be getting in the minutes that I was getting in New Jersey. Okay. So anyway, it was one of them being, man, again, like you just touched on it, timing and being in the right situation. It means a lot.
Mike Klinzing: [00:30:35] What did you hear from the Bulls?
So when you get traded, obviously you probably don’t have much of a conversation with new Jersey’s management and coaching staff at that point when they shipped you out. But I’m assuming when you come into Chicago that they at least give you some explanation for, Hey, why they’re bringing in. So do you remember that conversation or do you remember what they told you when they first brought you in and what they were looking to get out of you at that point?
[00:31:00] Dennis Hopson: [00:30:59] Well, it was, it was, it was more like, well, you’re getting a new opportunity. You’re going to get a new opportunity. Okay. Playing for a team that’s competing for the Eastern conference championship, but they’ve been they all in short, we’re just trying to get some pieces that’s coming here and health never was promised to anything but like I said, I, again heard that conversation, but didn’t really pay much attention to that conversation. I was more focused on you’re getting ready to play behind the best player in the country. How many minutes are going to be left for you to play. That was my focus. Okay. So and I had just come off of knee surgery, so I don’t know that I was fully engaged in the whole situation.
Okay. And again spotty minutes. Four point something points a game [00:32:00] to winning the NBA championship. Okay, great. That’s great. Because you know, you got a lot of big stars that don’t win NBA championships. So I did get something out of it, but I think it kind of set me back a little bit.
And then after that, I think the fourth game, the second season I was traded to Sacramento where I got new life again. Yeah, new life. It was perfect. You know, Mitch Richmond had just gotten traded. So new life, I don’t know, a little over 18 to 20 minutes a game, but I averaging 10 point 10.7 points. And the time that I was getting so here, I’m coming back. So again, man, I think Not just with my situation. This is with it’s with everybody’s situation you know, being in and right place at the right time and is so important. They’re just so [00:33:00] important.
Mike Klinzing: [00:33:01] Yeah, I think there’s no question about that. And we’ll get into your next step after Sacramento. What happened when you left Sacramento? And I know I saw something on the internet where you talked about it being the worst advice that you ever got from your agent, we’ll talk about that. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to at least.
Share one. What’s your favorite story of Michael Jordan from the time you were there? Is there anything that you shared in the past or something that sticks out to you when you think about the time that you spent with, with Jordan there in Chicago for the one year where they won his first title.
Dennis Hopson: [00:33:32] So I don’t know that I have one story, man. I have a whole year of just being with. And again, this is what I did enjoy about being in Chicago is that they brought back the competitive edge that I started with at New Jersey. That kinda got depleted a little bit because of the situation.
Okay. But it brought [00:34:00] the guys in Chicago brought back that competitive edge. Okay. Because. They beat it, man. I mean, and again, I mean, I don’t have one story about him there’s a lot of stories in every story that I would probably say about him is that he’s a competitor, man.
He’s a super, super competitor, man. And again, where I loved the body would think I’m not even going to make everybody around him work. Okay. He, wasn’t going to settle for you loafing. Right. He wasn’t going to settle for that because he had a vision and he had something in mind.
He knew he was very, very close to getting it, but he just couldn’t get over the hump to get it. And that was to try to win the championship. Okay. So again, his daily routine was going to be competitive, no matter what it was. So again, to just say, give me one story. You know, I don’t know what I can just give you one story, but I can give you a lot of stories.
And every story is going to be about [00:35:00] him being a super competitive guy.
Mike Klinzing: [00:35:02] Yeah. I think that when you think about what his reputation was then, but I think that super competitive nature was always talked about them, but I think it’s grown even more in legendary status. And obviously with the last dance.
People who are a lot younger than us who maybe never saw him play in his pride, got re-introduced to that competitive nature that clearly came through in the documentary. And you got to see some things behind the scenes as a fan that maybe you weren’t privy to before that certainly. Made you realize and understand better just what type of competitor that guy was day in and day out.
And so for you to be able to win and get your title, where’s your title? Where’s your championship ring right now. Where do you keep it?
Dennis Hopson: [00:35:46] You know, I’ll bring it out if I’m speaking at a camp to some young kids, or I know people are going to be asking me about it, I’ll bring it out.
And let those let [00:36:00] guys, girls see and the parents see, but that’s I that’s the only time I really bring it out.
Mike Klinzing: [00:36:06] Gotcha. All right. Explain what happened at the end of that year in Sacramento, where you thought things were going in the right direction and your agent gave you some advice.
Just talk a little bit about that and where that set your career.
Dennis Hopson: [00:36:17] Yeah. You know, again, I think yeah know when you’re young life is all about learning and growing and had a great year. Okay. And I never forget this. They didn’t call us every day from Sacramento. Hey Gary St. Jean’s, he was the general manager at that time we want to get this thing done.
But their whole thing was that we only could give you a one-year deal. Okay, because of, I guess, all the things that they had been doing in the past financially to where there, they were still taking care of certain players and that type of thing. So the one year thing is in my mind was I’m young and you see guys signed up for multi year [00:37:00] deals.
And my thing was that now my agent was one he, he just felt that was a bluff and we should be able to get the multi year deal. And they kept saying, look, we, we we just drafted what Williams is not there, but the good thing about this is that if you sign a one year deal, you could become unrestricted at that.
And then you can go anywhere else. If somebody else wants to pick you up, if you don’t want to stay here after the one year deal. And I will never, ever forget, man Mike Brad sellers, he was, he was overseas at the time. He was calling me like hop man, take the deal, man, take the deal. All right. But again, not knowing much and, and, and, and having an agent to where you rely to pull on, I’m listening to him and time to born on time and they call me.
And then one day they call me to say, look, if you don’t want to take this where we got somebody else on the hook that we will sign, and that person is Vincent Askew if you don’t want it, you know? [00:38:00] And you know, we call your bluff and they ended up going in a different direction.
Small story short, I went overseas and had a great deal doing some things over there, but you know, being overseas is not like being home, even though I played in big time in great places, it’s still not like being home, but Hey, you’re living, you learn. And again, that’s just another teaching point that I will offer a young man or a young girl that’s in the same situation, take the guaranteed old gamble, you know?
A penny today is worth more.
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:36] Very true. Very, very true. All right. So let’s briefly touch on before we get into your coaching career. Let’s briefly talk about your overseas playing career. I want to ask you two questions. First question is what was your favorite country city that you played in?
And then two. This is a standard question. I have to ask everybody who plays overseas because everybody has one. What’s your craziest [00:39:00] European basketball story, because everybody has one story that just is sort of unbelievable to American basketball fans.
Dennis Hopson: [00:39:07] Well, I would say Mike, I have a few. Favorite places, I’m gonna say Spain, France, and Israel because again, Mike, you gotta understand when some of those guys go over there, they’re playing in third world country, for sure.
Well, I didn’t play in the third world, I played in big time countries where I’m close to Paris, I’m close to Madrid. I’m in Tel Aviv. I mean, I’ve been in places where we got American food. Everybody speaks English. So a little different for me.
Some of those guys, it’s not like that, but those three were great places, man, great places for me. And I think if you, if you talk about a horror story or something bad is that the [00:40:00] good thing is that they love their basketball. The bad thing is that they are throwing coins and stuff and different things like that.
So Hey love the fact that they were big basketball supporters. Didn’t like the fact that at times a couple of coins might come flying out on the court. Cause they, I mean, they are, they are head over heels when it comes to their basketball man, they have, they’re very committed to the team that they like.
And if something is going wrong, They’re going to let you feel it and you’re going to see it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:34] Yeah. I think those stories of things that happened, and I think that throwing things out on the court is something that clearly happens a lot more frequently. Overseas. And it does here in the state is that thankfully let’s put it that way.
Thankfully, that’s the case. I don’t want to have to be dodging coins as a coach or as a player. So as your playing career starts to come to an end and you start to see retirement. In your future. [00:41:00] what are you thinking about was coaching on your horizon? I know you started out your first job back in basketball, I believe with the Sixers as a scout, but just kind of give us an idea of what your mindset was as you’re playing career was wrapping up. What were you thinking your post playing career was going to look like?
Dennis Hopson: [00:41:16] Well, I think every athlete their first day, they think about his business. You know, do something business wise, but you know, after doing some things. You quickly learn that you’re stepping over into an arena that you don’t have a lot of knowledge about and, and the people that you might be getting involved with, they have a whole lot of knowledge about.
So you quickly understand that it is what you want to do, or if it is what you want to do, you better educate yourself real quick. So nobody takes advantage of you. Okay. So yeah. Going back and forth. But the biggest thing was, man, I still had some unfinished business Mike, and that was after we lost at Georgetown at Ohio State.
I quit school. I started [00:42:00] going to school. I withdrew from school. You try to get ready for the draft. So I was a year and two quarters away from getting my degree. So at this time, when, like you just asked a question when I was winding down is like the, the first thing on the agenda slash plate is you better go back to school and get your degree because you made a promise to yourself.
You made a promise to your mother and your father to get your degree. So when I was done, man I went back to school at the age of 40. I went back to school at the age of 40. I sat in a class with people like Tim again, and those guys that graduated after a year and a half.
And it’s a funny story with talking about coaching doing some work with the Sixers and. Every time I spoke to somebody about college coaching. You know what, the first thing, the first thing that would come up was you don’t have a college degree. You got to have a college [00:43:00] degree or college degree to coach on a college level.
Okay. So right after I got that degree, Ohio State was in the tournament and I think they may have made it to the final four. Okay. Back in, well, I’m in line to pick up my tickets. For the tournament and Rollie Massimino is right in front of me.
So we started talking and It’s just one of those things where, Oh, I know you, Oh, I know you as well. So we started talking and he asked me what I was doing. I’m like what are you getting into college basketball? And he was like, huh, it’s funny.
You know, I just started a program in West Palm beach, Florida. And I’m going to be looking for an assistant. One thing led to another man. He flew me to West Palm beach, Florida. We talked and he hired me right on the spot, hired me on a spot. So I moved, I [00:44:00] moved to West Palm for two years.
And after those two years, Bowling Green, myself and Louie Orr connected, and I got hired by Bowling Green spent five years in Bowling Green. Before we got fired. And then I took a high school job and I did one year high school was not for me, or it was too much. You’re too. it’s too easy for people to get you to like parents and stuff.
You know what I mean? It’s still by phone, wait for you after the games, just took some time after that and started doing some things my personal programs and doing a lot of training and that type of thing, and then connected with Lourdes University.
Mike Klinzing: [00:44:46] All right. So I want to go back to your first experience with Rollie and talk a little bit about what, what about coaching when you got that first job, how was it different maybe than [00:45:00] what you thought it was going to be like in terms of, were there things that were surprising to you about the coach profession that maybe from the perspective of you as a player, you didn’t realize that coaches spend so much time doing X or Y what was it about coaching that.
Maybe it was different from what your perspective was as a player.
Dennis Hopson: [00:45:21] One is when you’re a player, you just, it’s all about you. You worry about you. Okay. As a coach, you got to worry about a team. It’s more than it’s more than just you. Okay. Now you as a player, you going to watch film, okay, you got to watch film because you need to know your opponent.
But as a coach, you’re watching your film, you’re doing scouting reports. You’re talking about strategy and you’re talking about game plan. You’re talking about a lot of different things. Okay. If you want to be good and successful. So it’s two totally different things. Okay. Again, as a player, you know, your job, do your job as a coach, you gotta [00:46:00] know.
Different personalities. You know, I need to be able to talk to Johnny like this. I can talk to David like this. I can talk to Kenny like this. Okay. You got to know your personnel. Okay. Within your program. You gotta know your opponents that you’re going to be playing against, non conference, in your conference.
Okay. So there’s just so much that you have, that goes into being a coach. Again, if you want to be good, that people don’t really understand.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:23] All right. What’s the main difference for you? Or what did you experience as the main difference between. Being an assistant at the NAIA level. And then being an assistant at the division one level.
When you went to Bowling Green, was there a big difference in your mind or was it just a matter of the two levels in name and maybe the size strength, ability of the players, but the job was pretty similar. What, how would you describe the difference between the two jobs?
Dennis Hopson: [00:46:52] Well, outside of athleticism, strength, speed.
Or the two lab work, the two, [00:47:00] the two levels NAIA and in mid-majors bowling green is mindset. It’s mindset. I think when you’re coaching D one, everybody on a D one level thinks you’re going to be a professional athlete. Okay. So when they leave that locker room or when they step between the lines, right.
I think their mindset okay. Is I’m going to be a professional athlete. So I’m going to go out here and I’m going to play hard all the time. All right. NAIA level? I don’t know if they shoot for that. And again, that’s one of the things where I struggle as a coach. Sometimes it’s like, what is your motivation?
Okay. What is your passion when you step between these lines? Okay. You gotta have something that’s more to drive you. All right, because if you do that means you will watch, are you going to compete hard? But sometimes I think some of my guys, they feel like, well, I’m not going to be a professional athlete.
I’m not going to have the opportunity [00:48:00] when I’m done here. So this for me is just, I’m out here, just out here playing. Okay. I’m out here playing. The other thing is the one, if somebody goes to a team they’re not a preferred walk on, they’re getting the scholarship. Okay. NAIA level, some of these kids will get athletic and academic money, but more likely they’re not getting a full scholarship.
So they’re paying some of their tuition as well. Okay. So again, the mindset for me is not always the way I want it to be on an NAIA level, but like I tell my guys, you might not be a pro when you’re done playing here, but at the end of the day, everybody has pride everybody. You should have it because no matter what happens, you are the prideful enough to where no matter what your situation is, I’m going to make sure that I’m at my best, I’m competing. I’m doing what I need to do. That’s what prize should do for you?
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:57] Is that a day in, day out conversation with your kids. [00:49:00] Now?
Dennis Hopson: [00:49:00] It is. I mean, I just had two in the office today talking about it at different times because again, I’m trying to figure out as a coach, the worst thing that you can experience as a coach is not knowing your team, not knowing what team you’re going to get from game to game.
Okay. Not having an identity. That’s the worst thing as a coach. Okay. Because you do what you do. You go through your game plan, you get your pregame speech. Are you out on the court? And it’s very frightening when you don’t know what team you’re going to get out your plan. Very frightening so that you know that again, that’s something that I have to figure out.
Not even we won 20 games last year. Didn’t figure it out last year and I’m still working on it today. So I’m always trying to talk about using different situations [00:50:00] different quotes different things that other people might say, a LeBron James or Michael Jordan. I’m always trying to figure out what I can do to drive.
Mike Klinzing: [00:50:09] Yeah. I think being able to tap into that motivation and then I would guess that it’s also trying to figure out and tap into not just the team as a whole, but. Each individual player and figuring out what makes them tick, whether it’s through just having them in the office or walking the campus with them or having lunch with them.
Just how do you go about getting into the mind of each one of your players so that you can figure out what it is that motivates them? Cause it may be different for each individual guy.
Dennis Hopson: [00:50:36] You do a lot of individual things. Okay, you do a lot of talking to your coaches and say, Hey man pull such and such aside and see if you can get something okay.
Or take such and such the lunch and see what he’s talking about. Okay. So there’s, there’s a lot, again, there’s so [00:51:00] many different avenues you try to pull out the best in everybody that’s on your team.
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:10] What did you learn in your time as an assistant coach that helped you when you made the transition from assistant that coach?
And you can either take that from you already talked a little bit about your high school experiences, but let’s just take it probably more from the college experience. What did you take from being an assistant that helped you in the transition to become a head coach at Lourdes?
Dennis Hopson: [00:51:34] Well, coach Massamino, and I would say keep it about family. You know what I mean? Keep it about family. You know, let the kids know that you care. Let the kids know that you’re here for them. You’re in their corner because you know, trust is we kids, a man trust is a big thing. If they feel like they can trust you, then they’ll come to you and they’ll break bread with you.
No matter what the situation is, if they don’t trust you, that’s [00:52:00] a different story. That’s a different story. Okay. So the big thing that from both of the guys that I work for. That I was, I’m sorry, I’m an assistant under Coach mass and coach Orr keep it, keep it family, man.
Just let them know that you care and keep your door open. Keep your phone. Open with no matter what time it is to talk to any of them, if they did pick up the phone and call you at three 45 in the morning, cause you never know what they calling about.
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:29] So what does that look like? I mean, other than keeping your door open and keep your phone line open, what does it look like?
Building trust? How do you go about doing that day to day? Are there things that you’re doing. Intentionally within the team, within the practice setting within team meetings, team meals, or is it more, just a informal before practice on going down and guys are warming up, they’re doing their stretching.
Maybe I’m sitting next to them and talking to them at that point. So just how do you go about building that trust? What’s that look like?
[00:53:00] Dennis Hopson: [00:53:01] I think it has to be bigger than just the whole basketball piece. You gotta let them know that you care, like this summer. I had them over to the house.
Okay. I had a big cookout for them over at the house, or they were outside playing, throwing a football, playing basketball, that type of thing. But again, I think you talked about earlier knowing your audience, knowing personalities. Okay. No, what can be said, what can’t be said, knowing that again, call them on the telephone.
Hey man, how you doing today? And likewise with the COVID-19 thing, we’re all right now we have a lot of zoom calls and actually we’re going to have one tomorrow just kind of stay available, man, letting them see, like I’m in the office daily. Some of them come in the gym and work out.
They might come upstairs and get the key to get in the locker room. Let me talk to you, what are you doing? What are your workouts looking like? You know, we might go back to, we might start practicing again, [00:54:00] December 7th. You know, are you prepared for work?
You know, are you eating well? You need anything. That type of thing is very, very important.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:12] All right. Just something that you said, I got another question, but this one just popped into my head. You talked about asking your players. Are they eating well? I’m just curious when you were at Ohio state, did, was there much talk about nutrition with. The coaching staff, like, did they ever talk to you about what you should be eating or shouldn’t be eating?
I’m just curious, because I think about my experience when I played at Kent 88 to 92, and I don’t think we ever. Really had much discussion about nutrition or what you were supposed to be eating. And I think about like having practice on a Saturday morning for three, three and a half hours, and then immediately heading right to Ponderosa and drinking, like two gallons of soda and a steak and chicken wings, all this stuff.
I’m just curious, cause I know obviously today we have so much more knowledge and there’s so much more information that’s [00:55:00] available to players and coaches, but just, I’m just curious for your own experience back when you were at Ohio state. Did was that talked about nutrition at that point?
Dennis Hopson: [00:55:08] Not at all. I talked to my kids about that because I don’t eat pork and beef now. It’s probably been about 16 years, 17 years since I’ve had it. But no, not at all. Like you said at Ohio State you got training table. So after practice daily, Mr. G was always up in the room, cooking these fabulous meals.
And you can, like you said, cheeseburger, mashed potatoes, whatever it was we ate good every single day. The whole nutrition piece didn’t come around and I don’t know what, 12-15 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. But you know, it’s funny because it really, it really helps with your with how you feel for sure.
When you’re taking care of [00:56:00] yourself. So again, I wish we did have something like that, we never, we never had that back in. We just, like you said, we wanted to go to Ponderosa and. Get a plate full of wings, full of steaks. So we would do when we ate. Good. Okay.
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:18] All right. Let me ask you a little bit about recruiting. This is a question I know you mentioned earlier that you’ve had some involvement with a new basketball. And so I’m curious as a college coach, when you go out and you recruit and you’re looking at evaluating a player, And there’s two main settings where you’re going to be able to look at a player and what they can do, and that’s what their high school team, and then in the summer with their AAU team.
So when you’re looking at those two environments and you’re looking at a player, are you looking for different things? In each one of those environments, do you way one of those environments more heavily than the other? Just give me your perspective on what you’re looking for when you go out.
Dennis Hopson: [00:56:58] I do. I mean it, [00:57:00] we either, first of all, we identify what positions we need.
Okay. And then once we identify what positions we need, we look to see what a kid can do. Alright. As far as basketball skill, now, it’s funny you say that because on the AAU circuit with. That being a platform for college coaches to come see kids play. You already know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a lot of selfish basketball.
Okay. So now you got to try to see through the clutter on a side because you’re going to be good. And he is trying to do things that your high school coach is not going to allow them to do. All right. So we look at both, we look at them on the AAUcircuit. We the own AAU circuit. Okay. We’re going to evaluate there.
Might not get a great reading. We might get a good reading as far as your skillset on that level. Okay. Because again, it’s selfish basketball, but now when we identify a kid and we find out [00:58:00] what school he goes to, and we go to one of their practices, now we’re going to see more like a team say, okay there’s going to be a lot more structure cause they’ve been together for awhile.
You’re going to be guys sharing a basketball, yours going to be that type of thing. So you want to see how he interacts with his, with his with his teammates. And I think you can kind of get a better feel when you see him with this high school, as far as that goes versus his AAU program.
Because a lot of these kids that, that come together with for AAU, they come from different schools. They come from different cities in that state, and then they just come together on a weekend. They play, you’re not doing any practicing like they would on a high school level. So yeah, you get a feel for both.
Both are very, very important. Okay. Yeah. I could tell a whole lot about a player. Seeing him on the high school circuit.
Mike Klinzing: [00:58:55] Yeah. I think you have to weigh both of them. It’s just, I’m always curious to hear what college coaches have to say [00:59:00] about what they look for when they evaluate each one of those given places.
Do you have any advice for a high school parents or the parent of a high school athlete when it comes to recruiting and what their level of involvement is. And obviously it should, it’s different for every family. Circumstances are always different, but just maybe some general advice for parents who are trying to help their child in the process rather than hurt their child in the process.
And maybe the same thing from a high school coaches perspective. Like when you go in and talk to a high school coach, what are you hoping to get from them? So I guess advice for a high school parent and advice for a high school coach to help the athlete in the recruiting process?
Dennis Hopson: [00:59:41] Well, I think advice I would give to a parent that, like you just said, don’t hurt your kid.
And it’s funny because the majority of parents, or a lot of parents, I should say nowadays, they hurt their kids. And what we do is where my staff and I do is we recruit everybody. [01:00:00] If I’m recruiting you, Mike, I’m going to want to know who you’re around. I need to know your parents.
I need to know friends. I need to know the people that you seem to be around a lot. Okay. I need to know what type of people they are, because again, and this is why I stayed away from that. That’s why I don’t do the high school thing. You know, I don’t want you if you’re a parent and that’s your son, you’re always going to love your son.
Okay. And you’re always going to be your kid. But your kid might not be as good as what you think. Okay.
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:32] Are you serious Dennis? Are you for real? That’s true.
Dennis Hopson: [01:00:35] Yeah. Come on. You know how it is you as a player, you’ve been through it and you’ve done it. So, you know so I think if I had to give any advice to me, just be careful that you let your kid go out, play and let them be who they are and let us do our job in regard to evaluating.
And if we tell you something that you don’t like. Or your son is not playing as much as you would like [01:01:00] you can’t get, you can’t get offended by it. Because again, I seen him every day. I know his talent and like I tell my kids, I don’t play you. You play yourself. Okay. And it’s funny that I got to tell him you audition every day.
You audition every single day. Okay. Last year you had 90 some odd that we practiced 90 plus times last year. You had 90 practices to go out and prove that you were more than capable of getting planning time if you want to play.
Mike Klinzing: [01:01:30] That’s so true. What about with high school coaches? What are some things when you go out and you talk to a high school coach, what are you looking for in the conversation that you have with a high school coach?
I could guess what the main thing is that you’re looking for, but I’m just curious to hear what you’re saying.
Dennis Hopson: [01:01:45] Personality and attitude. Okay. It is funny. You asked that because. You know, every team has captains, right? Every team has captains, but you know what I do, it’s easy to pick a captain, but like, I give them a piece of [01:02:00] paper and I say, whose attitude do you want this team to take after whose attitude?
Who was it? I mean, or would you like to see? If you could pick one of these guys on the team. Okay. Pick one of your teammates. Whose attitude do you want to seem to take after? And that’s very hard for them. God, no, that’s very, very hard for a guy to tell you and you don’t. I want more than just captains.
I want guys that have the attitude okay. To where, Hey, you going to come every day, you’re going to do what you need to do. You got to get your guys to buy into that. And then everybody’s attitudes and some of the same.
Mike Klinzing: [01:02:45] I think that’s so important. You can get, we always hear that. Talk about a player led culture, as opposed to a coach led culture and talking about how, when the players can be the ones that enforce the culture and say, Hey, this is the way we do [01:03:00] things here. And if you do it that way Hey, we can’t, we can’t have that because that’s not the way. That’s not the way we do things here.
If we want to win, we want to be successful. I think that that’s something that all coaches strive to do, but yet I think it’s something that is difficult to do because you have to give your kids, I think an opportunity. To act as leaders. And sometimes we as coaches want to have leaders, but we don’t really actively try to develop them or give them opportunities to lead.
So how do you find, how do you find opportunities for your kids to step into leadership roles? Which means that you and your staff probably have to take a step back maybe in certain areas. How do you go about doing that?
Dennis Hopson: [01:03:46] This team is for sale and a great thing about it is it don’t cost you a dime. All right. Whoever wants to own his teams, step up and own it, step up and own it. But here’s the thing though. You got to make sure what you’re trying to get somebody [01:04:00] to do. If you’re a player, what you’re trying to get somebody to do, you gotta make sure that you’re doing it okay.
Because you’re not going to be looked upon as a leader. If you’re not doing what you need to do once you can’t show somebody else what to do.
Mike Klinzing: [01:04:14] Yeah, that is so true. I think that one of the things that players struggle with, and I think it’s one of the things that you see when you coach for a long time is you’ll have kids who it’s the best, the best situations when your best player is your hardest worker.
I mean, there’s no question about that. There’s no question like that. And so I think the most frustrating teams, if I look back on my coaching career, the most frustrating teams that I’ve ever coached or been associated with are the ones where. Your best player has a questionable work ethic or as a question of latitude, because then you’re fighting with that best player nonstop, trying to get them to kind of get over the hump and come around.
And meanwhile, all the other guys that are kind of following and looking to that player for leadership and looking to you for [01:05:00] leadership, they’re seeing that conflict in the relationship and it makes it really tough. And conversely, when your best player. Is the one that you can count on and hold up as an example, and everything falls in line from there.
So I think as a coach, and I’m sure that you’ve seen in all your different stops, that when you can get that pecking order, right. And get that hierarchy in line, that it just makes everything so much easier to deal with from a coaching perspective.
Dennis Hopson: [01:05:26] It does. And you know, it’s funny because I had four last year, I have four guys that we picked and they’re all great kids. Everybody’s high character, great kids. Okay. But as far as your personality, okay. It was again I wanted more and I didn’t want it to be coming from myself and I didn’t want him to be coming from the, I want to be assistant coach. So I want more so that’s again, and talking to people, I came up with the whose personality [01:06:00] slash attitude would you want this team to take after?
No. Which one? And I let them pick. Okay, and then I right at the bottom of the paper, why. Are you picking this person. Okay. But then at the end of it, but at the end of the day, Mike, if it’s not, if it’s not a person that I want, I don’t believe. I mean, the more that they pick out a light, we won’t have captains we’ll do it by committee. Okay. Right before the games out to whoever I want to go out there and represent the team. That’s what we do.
Mike Klinzing: [01:06:36] I love that it’s a different spin on the question of, again, who’s. Whose demeanor whose attitude you would, you want this team to reflect? It’s a different way than saying, Hey, who do you want to be?
The captain sometimes can almost just kind of be, I’m going to pick the best player and maybe the best player shouldn’t always be the captain. And so I think what you’ve done with that question is you’ve given players an opportunity to stop and really [01:07:00] think about what it is that they’re doing.
It just kind of frames it in a different way. And I bet, I bet you get better results than you would if you just said, Hey, who do you wants to be the captain.
Dennis Hopson: [01:07:08] That’s right. Because last year again, they picked four guys and again, loved those guys, but again, they just, they weren’t the type of captain that I want.
So I came up with the whose personality. You want this, you whose personality you want your team to take after, and as in why and why?
Mike Klinzing: [01:07:27] Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. I want to ask you a question about the totality of your coaching career and. The question is, what do you think, right? From the very beginning as a coach, you were pretty good at, and then what’s something that at the beginning you feel like was maybe a weakness that over the course of your entire career, that you’ve been able to improve upon to the point now where you feel like that is something that was a strength that started out as a weakness.
So something you’ve been good at from the beginning and [01:08:00] a weakness that you’ve turned into a strength over the course of your career.
Dennis Hopson: [01:08:03] Well, I think, I think in the beginning was my background. I’ll be honest with you. I think my background that helps because I have been there, done that already walked it already.
Walk where you guys are trying to walk. You know in a call on that real quick. Okay. So I think that was one main strength of mine was out the end there. I used to be coached by people just like you guys are going to be coached by us as the staff.
Okay. No weaknesses is not being patient. Not being patient not understanding why I could see something and do something, but they couldn’t see and do. Okay. So that patients learned, read that patient and not being patient turned into. Okay. [01:09:00] They’re not you, Okay. So that turned into, okay, They’re not me. So you gotta do a little extra to help. Okay. Now raise your basketball IQ Either basketball, intellect. Okay. Their IQ for the game. So that’s what I learned so far as being a head coach.
Mike Klinzing: [01:09:23] Yeah. That’s good stuff. I think that there’s no question about that. As I think former players. I think it’s very difficult to sometimes get your head around the fact that why can’t this kid see the things that I’m seeing or why don’t they work as hard?
As I worked and I had, I struggled with that for a long time, trying to figure that out. I remember my first job as a JV basketball coach. I walked into practice on day one and I try, I was by myself. And first time I ever, first time I’d ever coached a practice and I got 15, whatever [01:10:00] 10th graders that are in front of me and we’re going up and down the floor.
And I just remember after like five minutes thinking to myself, I just witnessed like 5,000 things. That I want that I want to fix. And how am I possibly going to do that? And it took me, took me a long time. And even now there’s times where you still kind of revert to yourself as a player, you just think, why can’t I can’t they do that?
Like, why can’t they see that? And I think that’s something that if, if you’ve played that, I think you, I think coaches that have played always struggle with that, Dennis, I think, I just think they do.
Dennis Hopson: [01:10:33] Well. That was a big struggle of mine. But again, I think that weakness is kind of turn and turn into a positive because now you’re a little more patient and then you gotta do a little more breakdown and more importantly, man, during your breakdown, you gotta have conversation to go with it.
Okay. You just can’t say, I want you to do. You got to have kind of a, this is what I want you to do. And this is why. Okay. Depending on what the action is. Look, if I come up to [01:11:00] this ball screen and I got my main defender and then I got to. Somebody is open somewhere. So you got to know plays and you just gotta break it down a little more.
Mike Klinzing: [01:11:12] Yep. And I think that why that you just mentioned is something that I think back to, and I don’t know about your experiences, but my experience as a player was the, why was really never shared with me. It was just, look, this is what you’re going to do. And as a player, you just. Kind of accepted it and you did what you were told and you really never asked the question why.
And I think nowadays coaches do a much better job of sharing the why. And I think players are much more likely to ask for that why than they were back in the era when you and I played
Dennis Hopson: [01:11:41] that’s right. That’s right.
Mike Klinzing: [01:11:44] We are coming up Dennis close to an hour and a half. So I want to wrap up by asking you one final question and it’s kind of a two-parter.
So the first part of the question is when you look ahead there at Lourdes. And let’s say over the next year or two, three years, and let’s eliminate COVID from it and [01:12:00] assume that at some point we’re going to get back to normal. What do you see as your biggest challenge moving forward? And then part two of the question is what’s your biggest joy when you get out of bed in the morning, and you think about being the head men’s basketball coach at Lawrence university, what brings you the biggest joy about that?
So your biggest challenge and your biggest joy…
Dennis Hopson: [01:12:16] The biggest challenges to go for myself is probably not having a full scholarships. And again, you’re going to be that now. Now NAIA. There’s no more NAIA to all, any eyes or one now. Okay. So you’re going to have some teams like you, Georgetowns, and those guys, they get full scholarships.
Okay. There is no way that we can compete against those types of guys. All right. And I learned this from coach Massamino, if you want to be the best. Okay. You’re not the best at that time. You better figure out what your best is doing. And you better be able to do it the same, or do it better.
Okay. So the biggest, the biggest, [01:13:00] the biggest struggle or not struggle because we always will make it work. Okay. I wouldn’t be there if we couldn’t make it work. But the biggest challenge is that I don’t get the scholarships that some schools on this level, that that’s a big challenge.
That’s the challenge I have to take what I get and make it work. And that’s the challenge. It’s not a fair plan for you. Okay. So that always going to be a challenge.
Mike Klinzing: [01:13:25] Absolutely. your biggest joy?
Dennis Hopson: [01:13:28] The biggest joy is getting out of bed every morning, man, and given, and we’re sharing a lot of knowledge that I have to give man to young guys, man, that, that’s going to be transitioning into the real world someday.
That’s my biggest joy and I love the game of basketball and I got a lot of knowledge that I can share. So why keep it to myself,
Mike Klinzing: [01:13:51] Getting to spend every day in the game. I think there’s nothing better than that for people who love it. And I just think that your passion for the game of [01:14:00] basketball tonight came through loud and clear.
And I just want to say on a personal level, I’m so appreciative. That you took the opportunity to come and join us and have this conversation tonight. I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule and I can’t thank you enough for joining us before we get out. Why don’t you go ahead and share where people can find out more about your program at Lord’s, how they can connect with you.
And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things
Dennis Hopson: [01:14:25] up. Okay, well, you, I mean, you can go to the website, which is Lourdes, L O U R D E s.edu, and always click on men’s basketball that would give you our schedule that would give you all the information about the program. The kids, myself, the staff and then through social media, which is my own personal social media.
I respond to people or Twitter @DennisHopson too. That’s the best way to get a hold of me, if not call my at my office phone.
Mike Klinzing: [01:14:58] We’ll put all that stuff in [01:15:00] the show notes so that people can find it. If they want to reach out to you, find out more about your program or just pick your brain on some basketball stuff.
And again, like I said, I appreciate you being willing to jump out with us. It was a pleasure for me to get an opportunity to talk to you about your playing career, your coaching career, all the great things that you’ve been doing in the game. And I’m sure there’s a really bright future what you’re going to do moving forward.
So again, Dennis, thank you so much and everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks!