OAKLAND, Mich. — Nicki Hopkins has been passionate about basketball since she was old enough to toss a ball at a kid-sized hoop.
So when the Bath grad finished her playing days at Buffalo last season, she was looking for a way to stick around the college game.
Hopkins joined the Basketball Coaches Association of America and headed to the women’s Final Four at New Orleans last year. It’s there she made a contact to interview for her current position as Oakland University’s women’s basketball director of operations.
“I wanted to say with Division I basketball,” Hopkins said. “I was always intrigued with the director of operations position and was always bugging our director of op at Buffalo. I wanted to be an assistant coach, but that was a little far fetched just coming out of college.
“I always thought about sticking with it as a career. I was coaching little kids at Buffalo. And being a point guard in high school and at Buffalo, you had to be a coach on the court. I could get away from the court, physically, but I couldn’t really get away from the game.”
Hopkins’ basketball days date back almost as far back as she can remember.
“It started back in the second grade,” she said. “Then coach (Greg) Mauk (at Bath) helped me develop my love for the game. Then, were all the times I was shooting and rebounding with my dad.”
At Bath, Hopkins developed into one of the top 3-point shooters in state history. She finished with the Wildkittens’ career record for 3-pointers with 226, which ranks 17th in Ohio girls history. Her 71 3-pointers as a senior is another Bath girls single-season record.
Her role at Buffalo was to come in and knock down 3-pointers. She ended up 123 career 3-pointers, which ranks seventh at Buffalo.
Now her role is connected to all facets of women’s travel and the budget.
Hopkins is in charge of all team flights, busses from the airport to the hotel, busses to and after practice on the road and all team meals on the road.
“I love it,” Hopkins said. “There’s something new almost every day. I’m learning what I can do better. I’m even scheduling some yoga for the team.”
Most of her job of scheduling bus and plane trips is taken care of during the summer. But there’s plenty of follow-up work in scheduling meals, practices and shoot arounds just a few weeks before a trip. Once the shoot-around and meal times are set, she’s on the phone firming up the transportation.
“Two weeks out (from a trip) I make the itinerary,” Hopkins said. “A lot of times it can be stressful,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins works with a Marriott representative and 75 percent of her trips can be set up around a Marriott and its banquet rooms. It’s the other 25 percent of the road trips, in which Hopkins must get creative in terms of hotels and scheduling meals outside the hotel.
The fact that she was recently on the trips as a player has helped in her ability when to schedule meals and allow the players down time.
She also gets a variety of meal suggestions from the Oakland players.
“I can’t control when we shoot or when we practice on the road,” Hopkins said. “But they give me their feedback on the meals. But they know not to mess with me or they won’t get their food,” she said with a laugh.
Hopkins also goes as far as memorizing which snack bars all the players prefer and stuffs them away for the road trips.
And while she loves working behind the scenes, she has her sights on coaching at the college level. Entering this weekend, Oakland is 7-9, 2-1 in the Horizon League.
“I’d love to coach one day,” she said. “And I’m able to talk a lot of X’s and O’s with the coach (Jeff Tungate) and go watch some film with him. It’s fun that I played against some of these teams and and offer my input. And we play Youngstown State and I played against (YSU’s) Heidi Schlegel in high school (when she played at Wapakoneta).”
For now, she’ll gladly take some down time when she isn’t mapping out a trip.
“The best part is coaches recruit around the summer, so maybe I’ll get a vacation,” she said.