As a young kid from Greenfield Center, N.Y., Kevin Hopkins played several different sports, as all little kids do. But the one sport that clicked was basketball.
“It was the one sport that I fell in love with and most enjoyed playing and working at,” Hopkins remembered. He grew up in New York with his family and attended Saratoga Springs High School, where he played basketball. Hopkins looked to attend a liberal arts college at which he could challenge himself both academically and athletically. The school that stood out to him was Amherst College, which he attended from 2004 to 2008.
Hopkins thrived as a student and basketball player at Amherst, becoming one of the leading players on the team. During his four years as a player, he helped the team achieve a record of 111-12 and earn four post-season runs, one ending in a national title. In his first two seasons, the team reached the semi finals of the NCAA Tournament. In his third season, they won the NCAA Division III National Championship and in his final year, he came up just short of consecutive national titles as the NCAA Tournament runner-up.
Off the court, Hopkins was studying hard and earned his undergraduate degree in psychology. After his graduation, he played professional basketball in Germany, and he absolutely loved his time there. He enjoyed immersing himself in the new culture, meeting new people and traveling around Europe. He describes his time there as “amazing…it is important for people to get outside of their comfort zone to grow as people,” and he did grow as a person during those two years. Hopkins found athletic success while playing basketball in Germany, helping improve the teams record from 5-15 to 13-7.
Hopkins returned to the U.S., where he attended the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management and completed his master’s degree in sports management. Hopkins considers both degrees to be vital to his coaching style. It has allowed him to have a more analytical style of coaching. “Having a background in psychology is very helpful in knowing how to work with a variety of people and players. During my graduate studies, we covered material about things ranging from budgeting to the effectiveness of different leadership styles and everything in between which has also helped shape my coaching style,” said Hopkins.
This is one of the reasons why he loves the liberal arts and Division III atmosphere, which Hopkins belives is the best of both worlds. He feels such an institution provides coaches with the opportunity to prepare athletes for much more than just basketball, “being a Division III basketball coach is about preparing students for life after college as well as coaching basketball.” He was drawn to the profession of coaching because his father, his youth basketball coach, and coach Hixon, Amherst’s head coach, used their positions to teach life lessons, and Hopkins enjoys that mental side of coaching.
Hopkins continued to follow his love of basketball and passion for Division III by returning to his alma mater in 2011 as an assistant coach for five non-consecutive years. In the first three years of his return, the team reached two semi-finals in the NCAA Tournament, and in the 2012-13 season, Hopkins achieved the NCAA Tournament National Championship title as a coach.
“being a Division III basketball coach is about preparing students for life after college as well as coaching basketball.”
In 2014, Hopkins left Amherst for the NBA Developmental League to work with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Hopkins made a huge impact during his short time with the team, helping them to win the championship. He is very fortunate for the opportunities Casey Hill, the Warriors head coach, and Hill’s staff provided him, but his experiences there made him realize he belonged in the Division III setting. His time with the NBA Developmental League clearly had an impact on Hopkins, as he says winning the championship was one of the most rewarding aspects of his coaching career thus far.
He spent two more years as an assistant coach at Amherst before applying for the men’s basketball head coach position at Muhlenberg. The move to Allentown was a big decision, but Hopkins is excited for the new opportunity, “I feel honored and privileged to have been selected by Coach Goff and the search committee from such a deep pool of talented applicants.” Hopkins was chosen as the best candidate from over 300 applicants, proving he has the talent and abilities to bring out the best in athletes as competitors and human beings. He prides his coaching style on relationships. “In order to be most effective, it is important that players know you care about them as people first and basketball players second. It is very hard to coach someone who thinks that you do not care about them.”
Since he forms such great relationships with his athletes, another one of his proudest moments in his coaching career has been seeing them graduate. “I think that the most rewarding moments off the court have been seeing guys that I have coached graduate and get jobs and then come back because they still want to be a part of the program. It is great to be a part of the journey with guys as they grow up and become successful,” reveals Hopkins.
In choosing whether to come to Muhlenberg or not, it was important for Hopkins to determine if he could work with the people and athletes here. Fortunately, he has felt welcomed on campus from the get go, as his favorite part about Muhlenberg is the people. “Everyone from the guys on the team, to alums, to different members of the staff have all been so welcoming and helpful throughout the whole process. I think it is the people that make Muhlenberg such a special place to be.” He is hoping he can help make Muhlenberg a better place and help build a strong basketball program and well-rounded athletes.
Hopkins hopes to bring his prior experiences to Muhlenberg, as the most important lesson he learned along the way was consistency. He was taught to always work hard because the most successful people were always hard-working. This is one of the philosophies he will bring to the Mules, along with improvement. Hopkins believes there is always room for improvement, and during his meeting with the team, he asked them to do just that. “The big focus for the team right now is to do at least one thing to improve themselves every day. This applies to being a student, being a member of the Muhlenberg community, and to being a basketball player,” stated Hopkins.
As for the strategic aspect of the job, Hopkins is still uncertain which style of play the team will adopt, but he is sure “we are going to play a style that enhances the strengths of guys on the team and downplays their weaknesses. Ideally we are going to play unselfishly, at a pretty fast pace, using simple but continuous actions. On defense we are going to play man-to-man.”
He believes his background and successes can help build a championship team from the ground up. “I have been fortunate enough to be on and around a number of different championship and championship caliber teams and programs. I have learned that in order to get to the playoffs and potentially win championships, you must establish a championship work ethic and team dynamic. Winning a championship is a long process that starts way before any one on the outside realizes. The best teams and programs that I have been a part of have always focused on the process of improvement and were never satisfied with the status quo. They were always looking for ways to get better.”
From now until the start of next year’s season, Hopkins will focus on building relationships with recruits that would be a good fit for the school and basketball program, as the best candidates are people with high integrity and dedication.
Hopkins is excited to start his career here at Muhlenberg, saying, “It is a privilege and an honor to be a head coach. I am really excited to work with the guys on the team.” So welcome, Head Coach Kevin Hopkins.