By Brad Spencer
Longtime OPRF High School coach and physical education teacher Donald Hopkins died Wednesday of complications related to pancreatic cancer.
Hopkins, mostly known as coach Hop, retired from OPRF in 2010 after serving 33 years as an educator. Hopkins coached basketball, football and lacrosse mostly at the lower levels throughout his career. He was also a physical education teacher at the school. Six coaches currently in the basketball program played for Hopkins and coached alongside him, including OPRF head basketball coach Matt Maloney.
"One of Hop's greatest attributes was he could find a way to make a light-hearted comment to break the ice a bit during tense times," said Maloney of Hopkins, his assistant coach for nine years at the sophomore level. "He did that with coaches and players, too. He knew how to cheer people up."
Maloney visited with Hopkins just a few days before his death and the former coach was in his usual good spirits.
"I passed along something a former fellow teammate and former player for Hop told me," said Maloney. "I told him Ramone Jones, the captain of the varsity basketball team our senior year, had called and told me to tell him he turned an immature freshman into a program leader. Hop smiled.
"He was his usual self to the end, cracking jokes that had me on my knees laughing," added Maloney. "It was same old Hop even though he was in a great deal of pain."
Hopkins, who lived in Evanston, also served as the head coach of boys lacrosse in the late '80s into the early '90s.
"Don was a character, a very funny man," said OPRF Athletics Director John Stelzer. "He was dubbed the 'Get-back coach' I believe by [former OPRF coach] Al Allen, for he was responsible for keeping the football players on the sideline behind the white line."
Stelzer said the school was holding a moment of silence for Hopkins during its fall spirit assembly on Friday. He will also be remembered during the varsity football game against York on Friday night.
Hopkins apparently requested that there be no formal funeral services upon his death.
"That's the sort of person he was," explained Maloney. "He was always someone who did a lot for others but shied away from taking credit. He was always one who didn't want to bring a lot of attention to himself. He was a great educator."
Hopkins was 62 years old.