Mike Hopkins On Working With Team USA

Syracuse assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins is in London with Team USA at the Olympics. He is part of the staff put together by Coach Mike Krzyzewski that also includes Hopkins’ mentor, Jim Boeheim. Here’s an update from Mike on his Olympic experience:

Now that Team USA is in London and the competition has officially begun, what is your role with the team?

We are basically assistants to the assistants. Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski (two Duke associate head coaches) both scout with Coach D’Antoni and Coach McMillan. They work together to prepare teams for competition.This was my role during the 2010 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

This year I help out with the scouting, trying to get play calls and help out anyway I can, as well as do the player workouts and practice. There are many days where I will go out and work out the players — get some shots, do some running drills and talk about the tourney. We do everything a coach would do (meetings, practices, etc…) other than sit on the bench during the Olympic games.

Tell us what is like to be involved in a basketball practice, as a coach, that includes the likes of LeBron, Kobe and Melo.

Its been amazing experience working out with the players. I had the opportunity to work out Kevin Durant many times during the World Championships, so I had some-built in equity and a relationship with him. I had never met or been around Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul or Deron Williams. So one day in Washington D.C., Kevin wanted to work with Lebron James. That was incredible. You can see their professionalism and their amazing work ethic and focus toward the game. After about a half hour, I was on the other end of the court and I received a tap on the shoulder asking me to shoot with him the same way I was shooting with Lebron and Kevin. It was Kobe Bryant! I ended up working with him for about an hour. We were having fun going back and forth. The amazing part was studying his footwork and observing how he approaches the game. It was a true thrill and an amazing experience.

Are there one or two players on this year’s Olympic Team who have impressed you the most?

I am blown away by Lebron James’ leadership. We all know he is a really talented player, but a lot of fans don’t see him as a person or a leader. He is the voice of this team and people follow him. His presence is extraordinary.

I am also blown away by Carmelo Anthony. Obvious we all had that dream year in 2003, where we witnessed his greatness, but he has taken that to another level in my book. I’ve always respected Carmelo for the way he has treated his ex-teammates from Syracuse, and what he has done for the University. He was only on our campus for nine months and he gave Syracuse University one of the largest donations, by an ex-athlete, in the history of NCAA. That is a credit to his character and loyalty, as well as to Syracuse University for providing an amazing experience.

You are working with the two winningest active Division I basketball coaches — Coach K and Coach Boeheim. What is that experience like?

They are both different in a lot of ways, but are very similar in the most important things regarding basketball. They have brilliant basketball minds. It is as if they see the game five minutes ahead of everyone else. They have an amazing feel for the game with both their players and how the game is being played. They are both skilled at knowing what their players are thinking and how to get the most out of them.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is: There are different ways to “skin a cat.” I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to be around two of the greatest of all time. It’s the experience of a lifetime.

Have you had any time for anything besides basketball since you have been in London?

We had a day off today and was able to take a tour of London. Coach D’Antoni made arrangements for a tour guide and invited some staff. It was awesome!

Let’s Go USA!

Mike Hopkins Team USA Q&A

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