Matt Hoppe started his journey at Brentwood Academy almost 30 years ago after wanting to play football for legendary high school football coach Carlton Flatt.
Little did he know he would replace another legend, this time on the basketball court 25 years later.
Hoppe takes over Brentwood Academy program that won four consecutive Division II state championships under 2019 TSAA Hall of Fame inductee Hubie Smith from 2015-20018.
Smith stepped down shortly before the 2019-2020 season started. Luckily for the Eagles, Hoppe sat right next to the legendary coach for the last three seasons.
“I really learned a lot from him; he really just took me under his wing,” Hoppe said. “[He] let me do a lot of things most head coaches wouldn't let their assistants do…He was always really great about giving me really positive feedback, and really constructive feedback about things that he thought could help me as a coach, and they’ve been invaluable.”
The new Eagles head coach said he appreciates how much the administration at Brentwood Academy have lent their support during the coaching transition and how Smith has been available for advice, but has allowed Hoppe the room to coach the team the way he sees fit.
Hoppe handled a lot of the preparation and scouting, as well as a lot of on the court situations for Smith and coached the junior varsity team. That should come as no surprise, as Hoppe boasts over 20 years of coaching experience.
He was an assistant at Samford University, his alma mater, before going to Union University and the University school of Jackson. He also spent time locally at Battle Ground Academy and had an earlier stint at BA, before going to London, England, where he started a basketball club and assisted with some of England’s youth national teams.
Hoppe believes that the two years in London helped him gain a unique perspective on coaching the game of basketball.
“It’s a really cool experience to see basketball and other parts of the world and see how they play it … It’s been a lot of fun,” Hoppe said. “I feel like I have, not a better perspective but a different perspective, on the game of basketball than most people in the United States.”
He returned to the U.S. in 2015 to take his first head coaching job at North Florida Christian School before returning to BA three seasons ago under Smith where he helped coach the team to two state titles and future 2019 NBA first-round draft pick (fifth overall) Darius Garland.
The 2019-20 Eagles lack an all-everything guard like Garland, but first year head coach likes the balance that his team showed in its first five games this season, boasting a different leading scorer each game.
Hoppe says he likes the mix of upperclassmen and youngsters to work with his inaugural campaign on the Brentwood Academy sideline. But BA still needs to improve in several key areas that they want to return to the state championship form they achieved under Smith.
“We’ve got to become a great defensive team, we're pretty good right now, but we’ve got so many new pieces. We’ve got some freshmen and guys who have come back from not playing for a little bit,” he said. “Just getting everybody on the same page in terms of what we’re doing both defensively and offensively.”
The team is at 7-4 right now heading into district play.
The Eagles are very athletic as well and if they can raise their defensive game to a new elite level believe they can challenge in a tough East/Middle region that includes rivals Montgomery Bell Academy, Ensworth, as well as Pope John Paul II, Lipscomb Academy and Father Ryan.
The new Eagles head coach is looking forward to getting to coach against some of these talented coaches in the region for the first time as the head coach of his alma mater.
“Our region, top to bottom, every night you’re in for a fight,” Hoppe said. “We’ve got six really good teams in our region … I can’t say enough of how good our region really is, and what a good job our coaches do. One, I’m really excited, and two, really lucky to get to coach against them and with them.”
Hoppe and BA will face JPII in their first region game on Jan. 10.