Eric Devendorf has a podcast named “The Scorer’s Table,” and recently he spoke to Michael Carter-Williams. Devo asked MCW if there was a turning point in his collegiate career at Syracuse. Lo and behold we got an amazing story of the time Mike Hopkins was running practice and ran afoul of a frustrated Carter-Williams.
Hopkins sent MCW to the bench and the young guard was upset. MCW hadn’t been able to crack the lineup in games, and practice was his time to show out. After being subbed out, MCW had some unkind words. Hopkins took him to task, and this was what transpired.
“It was a moment where me and Hop got into it. Worse than I’ve ever gotten into it with a coach before in my life. Practice for me was like the game.” – Michael Carter-Williams
“Boeheim wasn’t at the practice… Coach Hop was leading the practice. He subbed me out. I was like, ‘C’mon Hop. I don’t get in the game. This is my time.”
“We get face-to-face, real close. And he head-butts me. Hop head-butts me. I was in disbelief. I was so angry at him. I just wanted to hit him with a two-piece.” – Carter-Williams on Mike Hopkins
“Later Hop was like, ‘The look in your eyes was like you wanted to kill me.'”
“I left practice. Dudes were holding me back. After that moment, and he broke things down for me, I was like I’m gonna be the basketball player and person I want to be.”
Carter-Williams was a 4-star recruit out of Massachusetts, struggling to get playing time behind Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche. In the offseason he dedicated himself to cracking the lineup, and ended up starting from the start of the season. MCW’s sophomore campaign was sensational, earning him All-Big East honors and honorable mention for All-America. He was the 11th pick overall in the ’13 NBA Draft.
Give MCW major credit. He had a wake-up call as a young, frustrated player and turned into into a positive launching point. He’s still in the NBA a decade later. In today’s basketball culture, this also wouldn’t fly. An assistant head-butting a player? You could imagine someone immediately tweeting about this after practice and it becoming a major controversy.
Hopkins was a crucial component to Syracuse’s success over the years because of moments like this. He was respected enough to capably handle practice if Boeheim wasn’t there. He also had tight relationships with the players because he was the lead recruiter for most of them. And he had the knack for toughness but patience and teaching. It’s too bad he had to leave to get his coaching chance at Washington. The staff at SU has had good success since he left, but Hop was a vital piece of the Orange machine.