The New York Liberty recently announced the appointment of Walt Hopkins as Head Coach. To help get acquainted with the Liberty’s new leader, we caught up with him to learn 5 Things to Know.
Tell us about yourself.
“I started coaching high school in Sparks, Nevada (Reed High School) for boys and then girls. I worked in player development for both high school and college players, and had the opportunity very early on to be around some great player development coaches.
I did my masters program at Harvard. I was initially going to study teaching but once I got into the classroom, I realized that I really wanted to coach. I started studying player development, moral development and social psychology to learn the optimal way to create buy-in with players and motivate people.
From Harvard, I went to Tulsa where I worked in player development. I was also an assistant coach Utah Valley, which was also a great experience. Those experiences made me really want to study more and focus on coaching. That is when I went back to school at Berkeley. I focused completely on coaching.
After owning my own business doing some individual player development with WNBA, NBA, college and high school players, I got a call from Cheryl and ended up having an amazing run there. That’s what led me to this moment.”
2. THINKING THE GAME
You have a background in psychology of coaching. What does that entail?
“How do you frame feedback to people? There’s a field of study called Growth Mindset.
Once I started reading about mindset, I realized a lot about the way I framed feedback. For example, during a workout with a player if I’m teaching a new finish around the basket and they pick it up quickly, my first response would be to say, ‘Wow, you’re a fast learner, a natural’. When we got to something that they weren’t as good at, I noticed how frustrated they would be with themselves. They thought that I valued them because they were fast learners. So, one small aspect of studying psychology is to think about the way that we frame feedback.”
3. COACHING PHILOSOPHY
What is the coaching philosophy that you plan to bring to New York?
“First, being player-centered. Understanding that our culture is about us not about an individual. It’s a matter of me de-centering myself in a lot of what we do whether it be empowering my assistants and allowing them to run much more of the practice, taking player feedback, having a leadership group of players who I am getting a pulse on what they are seeing within the team… Not to gain information but to give everyone a voice. I want to be collaborative in everything that we do with front office, operations, etc. Everyone should feel valued and valuable.
I see my coaching philosophy as being focused on others rather than on myself. My hope is that we get that same mentality infused within the players and the assistants. My hope is that we do this for each other.”
4. NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Talk about the team.
“A lot of jobs pop up throughout the course of a coaching a career. This is a job that is uniquely exciting for many reasons. The location. This is a passionate fanbase in the Mecca of Basketball. So to have a group of players who are young, excited, hungry and poised to a take a leap, I’m really looking forward to working with them. I’m looking forward to helping develop the players who are looking to grow their games and to learn new ways to frame mistakes and goals. I think that this group is made up of quality people, and that’s what excites me the most.”
5. LOOKING AHEAD
What is your first order of business as head coach?
“Assembling a staff. It’s so important because first comes the philosophy, then the opportunity to assemble a staff. You have to find people who are committed to women’s basketball and know the league. Additionally, you need to find people who espouse the same characteristics, not just in their coaching persona but also in their personal lives. You have to find good people. And to find that mix of characteristics isn’t always as easy as you might think. Finding a staff who can in their actions and experience, echo the philosophy that we are trying to institute here, that is first and foremost what we need to do.”