PDT Sports Writer
When the news of Richard “Dick” Hopkins, Jr.’s death became public Tuesday, eyes welled and hearts swelled as those who knew and respected the former Portsmouth High School boys basketball coach offered words of condolences Tuesday evening.
“I just can’t say anything wrong about Dick Hopkins, I never had a bad thought about him,” said Bill Newman, a former basketball official and a friend of Hopkins from childhood.
Hopkins, 86, died Sunday at a Columbus hospital. Last month, Hopkins signed his star on the Portsmouth floodwall to recognize his achievements in basketball and baseball. Not only did he take the Portsmouth boys basketball team to a state championship in 1978 — joining his father Richard “Red” Sr. as the only father-son duo in state history to lead the same school to state championships — he also served as the Trojans baseball coach during his first tenure at Portsmouth and was a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Newman, who graduated from Portsmouth in 1944 and was a year ahead of Hopkins, holds high respect to the Hopkins family. Richard “Red” Hopkins, Sr. is who Newman credited as the person who got him interested in officiating.
While Newman recalls the younger Hopkins’ athletic and coaching talents in basketball, he felt Hopkins was the better baseball player. One reason why Newman felt Hopkins was generally successful was his upbringing by a disciplinarian family.
“It benefited him because he was able to do the same things with his children that his dad and mom did with him,” Newman said. “It was a chip off the old block, Dick was very commendable and a good disciplinarian, I liked him. His dad was a disciplinarian in school and so therefore, Dick learned it well and knew what was right and what was wrong and in turn, Dick stressed the very same way that his dad performed.”
It paid off for Hopkins as from 1976-1981, he coached the Trojan basketball team to a 103-34 record that included the state championship, an 18-0 regular season and an Associated Press poll championship the following year and puts him fourth all-time in school history among wins. The elder Hopkins tops the list with a 174-58 mark when he coached.
With 32 years of baseball coaching experience at Valley, Dean Schuler held Hopkins in high regard as Schuler was making his start. What stood out the most in Schuler’s mind about Hopkins and his coaching style was that he coached to his players’ abilities and still achieved the goals he had set on a consistent basis.
“He was one of the cobblestones of the coaches in Scioto County that I think any coach in any sport looked up to and respected so highly just because what he demanded out of his players,” Schuler said. “It’s one of those things where the program was very well-respected just because of the way that he carried himself.”
Retired Cincinnati Reds scout Gene Bennett felt Hopkins was a good person for the school.
“I think what he did as a coach, he was a mentor to them,” Bennett said.
In an official statement, current Portsmouth Athletic Director Joe Albrecht said this is a great loss to the school. At this time, no official plans have been created to honor Hopkins’ memory during the Trojans’ Friday night home football game against Gallia Academy, but Albrecht expected there will be some sort of memorial ready in time for the contest.
“A major loss to the school district, no question,” Albrecht said. “Strong Trojan ties. He’ll never be forgotten, I’ll guarantee that.”
Newman echoed the sentiments.
“He was an icon for Portsmouth High School and his coaching career,” Newman said. “He’ll be remembered.”
An official statement from the Ohio High School Athletic Association or the Philadelphia Phillies organization was not available in time for publication.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.