“It’s nice to have a guy who as soon as someone steps in the gym he’s like, ‘I heard a ball dribbling’ and he’s on the court,” said sharpshooter Steve Novak, who understands and appreciates Hopla’s commitment to teaching. “He’s someone who you really can go talk to about shooting if you’re not making shots because he’s a shooter. If, for some reason you’re like, ‘Today am I flat? Am I not following through? What is it?’ He’s shot a million shots. When he says something, he’s done it and he’s thought about it. That’s useful.”
The Knicks’ 28-year old rookie Chris Copeland has done lots of work on his shot in the past with various coaches, but Hopla is on another level.
“The one thing I like about him most is that he comes in every day with a smile on his face,” said Copeland. “He’s always pushing guys, always saying motivational things every day. He does the best job, as far as a shooting coach. He’s the best I’ve ever seen personally. He’s amazing. You go out there and he tells you on thing about your jump shot and you tweak that and make the next 20 in a row. He’s an amazing shooting coach and he does a great job.
“I’ve learned a lot [in the past] and I’ve always had a decent base. But at the end of the day, he is who he is for a reason.”
With improved team percentages from the 3-point line (33.6% 2011-12 up to 41.6% in 2012-13) and free throw shooting (74.1% to 77.6%), it’s unquestionable that Hopla’s input has worked.
“He’s a great motivator, man, especially when you’re out there shooting the basketball,” said Carmelo Anthony following his 34-point special against Phoenix. “He’s very positive, always going to tell you about your mechanics and what you’re doing wrong. So his main thing is just consistency, doing the same thing over and over again.”
According to current assistant coach LaSalle “Tank” Thompson, the former No. 5 pick overall in 1982 who currently specializes in working with the Knicks’ big men, Hopla’s imprint is all over the team.
“Out here he just works with guys on their shooting, tells them about little idiosyncrasies they might need to correct,” said Thompson during shootaround preceding a noon tipoff at the Garden yesterday. “And if you listen during the game if guys are missing free throws or shots, he’ll tell them something they did wrong with the shot.
“It varies from player to player but I would say each guy probably, if we have 15 guys on the team, I’d say at least 10-12 of them spend at least a half hour with him every day,” explained Thompson. “They’ll go in groups and do shooting drills before and after practice, and anyone who’s struggling with their shot, they’ll come and work with him individually.”