Well respected OPRF coach Donald Hopkins dies

Coach Hop spent 33 years at the high school

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

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.

Email: bspencer@oakpark.com Twitter: OakParkSports

Reader Comments

22 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Robert DeMille from Chicago  

Posted: September 18th, 2017 7:39 PM

My favorite coach hands down! Had him for both lacrosse and football. Thank you Scott Mandel for begging Coach Hop to be our coach, he put a lot of fun in sports for me, he cared about the students, and he will be dearly missed. RIP Coach Hop.

Carol Dorsey from Marietta  

Posted: September 15th, 2017 10:10 PM

Coach Ho, I know I speak for many athletes who came through the amazing OPRF academic and sports programs when I say you will be missed. You were always smiling and making the students strive to be their best. May you Rest In Peace

Scott Mandell  

Posted: September 15th, 2017 7:27 AM

Hop was truly one of a kind. He had a huge heart and kept everybody loose with his sense of humor. He became the lacrosse coach when we started the program in 1987 because I begged him to take the job, otherwise we wouldn't be able to have a team (no one else would volunteer). Amazing how the program has grown over the years and it would not have been possible without Hop. Rest In Peace my friend!

Daniel Kiros  

Posted: September 15th, 2017 12:29 AM

I met coach my freshman year while serving in school suspension. Hell of a first impression right? I ended up making the frosh squad B team. He was a good man, coach, and leader.

J.B. Scott from Phoenix   

Posted: September 14th, 2017 10:48 AM

I remember coach from football in 83. Hell of a coach and man. RIP

Franklin Mays from Oak park   

Posted: September 14th, 2017 7:30 AM

Coach Hop you will definitely be missed. No words can describe all the encouragement you gave me but I thank you.

Brandon Worix from Bellwood  

Posted: January 5th, 2015 3:02 PM

I just heard......r.i.p Coach enjoy up there! class of 02'


Posted: November 18th, 2012 8:36 PM

I remember Mr. Hopkins from 1983 much younger, though same happy youthful attitude a true people person who knew how to inspire others. Rest in Peace

Matt Tharp from Surf City, NC  

Posted: September 22nd, 2012 11:03 AM

Coach Hop was a great coach who had a tremendous impact on so many students, myself included. You will be missed Coach Hop, and thank you for all you've done. -Matt Tharp OPRF '06

Suzanne Hopkins from Aurora  

Posted: September 21st, 2012 1:58 PM

Don was a good man and a good human being as well as a good brother-in-law, a good uncle to his niece MO and nephew Allen Jr. He was also connected to his two great nieces Siena and Sydney and nephew Sanitago and my daugther-in-law Kim. Thanks Don for being true to who you were. I'll miss the conservations that we shared together. We your Colorado and California Family will forever miss you and you will forever live in our hearts.Good Bye Old Paint. Until we meet again. Suzanne & Family

Ramone Jones from Waterboro, ME  

Posted: September 21st, 2012 12:56 PM

As a young man trying to make a way and a name for himself in high school, Hop taught me the valuable lesson that making a name for others will accomplish more than I could imagine. Of course in true Hop fashion, this serious message is jokingly told in a way so that a young man could understand and positively respond to it. That is pure talent right there. Now that I am leading a basketball program, I can only hope to have an impact like Hop. Thanks for leading the way, we love you for it!

Adrian from Aurora  

Posted: September 19th, 2012 10:52 AM

I had the great fortune of meeting and getting to know a little Uncle Don. He was sharp guy, with great wit and humor. I'm very happy I got to meet him and spend some time getting to know him. Glad to see he is being honored! RIP Don

Mo from Aurora,CO  

Posted: September 19th, 2012 10:38 AM

It's nice to hear so many great stories about my Uncle. May you rest in peace. You will be missed.

Diana Johnson from Leland  

Posted: September 17th, 2012 8:51 PM

Coach Hopkins, long time friend, Don as we called him will truly be missed, he was like no other. Mere words cannot express how my husband and I feel. Don was our friend and our brother. He will be remembered always and forever.

Brad O from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2012 1:03 PM

Coach Hopkins was a great man who truly impacted my life. He was a dedicated coach, teacher, and servant to OPRF HS. The days where I got to talk to him even if it were only for a minute were some of my fondest times at high school. His influence on my life will never die.

Michael Simmons from broadview   

Posted: September 15th, 2012 3:03 PM

Coach hop will definitely be missed. i will always have fond memories of him. i am sure he touched many of young men's lives as he did mine. r.i.p.

Bubba Murray from Oak Park  

Posted: September 15th, 2012 2:37 AM

Coach Hop always had a kind word and great sense of humor that made you want to work harder. He was a great coach and will be missed. God bless.

Jerome Zollicoffer from Lombard Il  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 1:41 PM

"RIP HOPPY", I was one of the troubled youth that Coach Hopkins directed at OPRF. Just as most teens are guilty of, I thought that I knew it all, that was definately not the case. Mr. Hopkins openned my eyes to this fact as well as setting me on a different course, and I have not forgotten the things that he himself helped me with even after I was gone from OPRF for years, recieved again upon visiting with him over the years. To the man I know and came to RESPECT, I will truley miss yo

Anthony Kolovitz from River Forest  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 10:22 AM

Coach Hoppy, You were a great man. Thank you for helping get OPRF Lacrosse started back in the late 80's. RIP

Radley Watkins from Hazelhurst  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 8:44 AM

I loved coach Hopkins. He was my gym teacher and then friend when I would visit OPRF. He never discriminated against people and could get things done in a playful manner. I wish there were more people like Hop out there. I miss you Hop. Thanks for everything you did for me:)

J.Martin Konecki  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 7:36 AM

Coach Hoppy, May you rest in peace on the big field up in the sky. Your contribution to the OPRF community has been invaluable and long lasting. Thanks for all that you did. Shimmy

Chris Ledbetter from Elmhurst  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 10:52 PM

Hop, you were truly one of a kind. You are loved by so many former students, parents and teachers. Thanks for always making us laugh, smile and your infectious personality. We will truly miss you. Rest in peace hop.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2018

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad