The list of three-time winners of the Pac-12 men’s basketball Coach of the Year award runs six names deep: Lute Olson (Arizona), George Raveling (Washington State and USC), Mike Montgomery (Stanford), Lorenzo Romar (Washington), Dana Altman (Oregon) and Sean Miller (Arizona).
Could Mike Hopkins soon join the illustrious list?
Yes, that Mike Hopkins.
Seriously, we’re only half-joking.
Hopkins won the award in each of his first two years at Washington, then moved swiftly to the hot seat after two awful seasons.
He entered Year Five more likely to get fired than feted. The Huskies were picked 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, heavily reliant on transfers to salvage the operation and seemingly without much tactical clue on offense.
But thanks largely to the play of guard Terrell Brown Jr. (21.7 points per game), a Seattle native who spent last year at Arizona, the Huskies have produced a major upside surprise.
Winners of five of their past six games, they are currently 6-3 in league play and tied with Oregon for fourth place — far closer to first than last.
At this point, Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd is the clear frontrunner for Coach of the Year honors. But if the Wildcats stumble a few times down the stretch and UW maintains its trajectory, Hopkins will at least make the conversation.
(Were the award handed out this week, he assuredly would finish second behind Lloyd — a stunning turn of events, for sure.)
The impact of UW’s success on his immediate future is far more meaningful to the program than his candidacy for an individual award. And in our view, Hopkins is close to securing a return for his sixth season.
It’s a numbers game, essentially. The Huskies have nine games remaining (excluding the Pac-12 tournament). If they’re merely mediocre for the next week or two, there won’t be enough time left for a collapse of the magnitude that would prompt UW to make a coaching change.
Let’s say the Huskies split in the Bay Area this week and handle Arizona State at home next week — a reasonable scenario given the state of the competition.
At that point, they would be 8-5. Even if they were to drop every game the rest of the way, their final record would be 8-10.
For an athletic department (and its donors) coming off an expensive coaching change on the football side, an 8-10 league mark seemingly would constitute more than enough progress for Hopkins to return for Year Six.
His seat, it appears, is cooling rapidly.
To the power ratings …
(NET rankings through Sunday)
1. UCLA (16-2/8-1)
Last week: 2
Results: beat Arizona 75-59, Cal 81-57 and Stanford 66-43
Next up: at Arizona (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 10 (last week: 16)
Comment: We were admittedly surprised by the ease with which UCLA dispatched Arizona last week. If the Bruins win handily in Tucson, as well, consider us shocked.
2. Arizona (17-2/7-1)
Last week: 1
Results: lost at UCLA 75-59, beat ASU 67-56
Next up: vs. UCLA (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 3 (last week: 1)
Comment: The 3-point shooting generally and point guard play specifically were always the pieces that could derail a deep run in the NCAAs. At least there’s time to get those issues figured out.
3. USC (18-3/8-3)
Last week: 3
Results: lost to Stanford 64-61, beat Cal 79-72
Next up: at ASU (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 26 (last week: 24)
Comment: The Trojans better hope Stanford holds its ground in the middle of the standings, or that sweep could be problematic when the NCAA selection committee starts handing out seeds. It’s not like the Trojans have a stellar non-conference resume to lean on.
4. Washington State (12-7/5-3)
Last week: 7
Results: beat Utah 71-54 and Colorado 70-43
Next up: at Stanford (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 38 (last week: 62)
Comment: We suspect WSU’s jump up the NET rankings is based partly on the margin of victory over Colorado. In reality, the Cougars remain on the outskirts of the bubble until they record their first Quad I win.
5. Colorado (13-8/5-6)
Last week: 5
Results: won at Oregon 82-78, lost at Washington 60-58 and WSU 70-43
Next up: vs. Oregon (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 92 (last week: 87)
Comment: Hard to believe a team capable of winning in Eugene could turn around and lose by 27 points in Pullman. That’s particularly true of a Tad Boyle team. What in the world …?
6. Stanford (12-7/5-4)
Last week: 6
Results: won at USC 64-61, lost at UCLA 66-43
Next up: vs. Cal (Tuesday)
NET ranking: No. 89 (last week: 93)
Comment: Stanford is to USC in the major sports what BYU is to the Pac-12 in the major sports.
7. Oregon (13-7/6-3)
Last week: 4
Results: lost to Colorado 82-78, beat Oregon State 78-56
Next up: at Colorado (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 58 (last week: 49)
Comment: The loss to CU easily makes the short list of most surprising results of the conference season, especially given how the Ducks were playing prior to the game and how the Buffaloes played following the game.
8. Washington (11-8/6-3)
Last week: 8
Results: beat Colorado 60-58 and Utah 77-73
Next up: at Cal (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 140 (last week: 139)
Comment: We were skeptical of UW’s prospects for winning six games all season, much less six conference games.
9. Arizona State (6-12/2-6)
Last week: 10
Results: lost to Arizona 67-56
Next up: vs. USC (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 152 (last week: 148)
Comment: Welcome to the league’s basement, which is currently at full occupancy and, if we’re being honest, probably should be condemned.
10. Cal (9-12/2-8)
Last week: 9
Results: lost at UCLA 81-57 and USC 79-72
Next up: at Stanford (Tuesday)
NET ranking: No. 128 (last week: 129)
Comment: The Bears haven’t won since Jan. 2.
11. Utah (8-14/1-11)
Last week: 11
Results: lost at WSU 71-54 and Washington 77-73
Next up: vs. Oregon State (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 130 (last week: 121)
Comment: The Utes haven’t won since Dec. 21.
12. Oregon State (3-15/1-7)
Last week: 12
Results: lost at Oregon 78-56
Next up: at Utah (Thursday)
NET ranking: No. 226 (last week: 223)
Comment: The Beavers haven’t won since Dec. 30.
Support the Hotline: Receive three months of unlimited access for just 99 cents. Yep, that’s 99 cents for 90 days, with the option to cancel anytime. Details are here, and thanks for your support.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 408-920-5716
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.