The Legend of Dave Hopla

By: Dan Steinberg

The Wizards’ new assistant coach, Dave Hopla, has to be the most intriguingly bizarre assistant coach in the NBA. This is a man whose Web site brags that he is considered by many to be the top shooter in the world, regularly knocks down 495 out of 500 shots, and once made 35,332 out of 35,979 shots during a lecture series. That’s 98.20 percent. When I jump out of bed in the morning, I don’t even hit the ground 98.20 percent of the time.

This is a man who wowed the Toronto media last winter by making 550, yes that’s right 550, consecutive free throws after practice. I can’t type “the” 550 times without mixing in a few “tehs,” can’t type “Brendan Haywood” 550 times without mixing in a few “Brenda Haywoods.” Hopla’s record is 1,234 free throws in a row. Not sure about his three-pointers record, but he’s made at least 111 in a row, and once made 20 in a minute, which is apparently some sort of Guinness record.

Hopla grew up in Baltimore and played on the JV team at Dundalk, according to an old profile in the Providence Journal-Bulletin. His own playing career took him to an obscure school in Nebraska and then all over Europe and South America and, briefly, to the CBA. He’s been doing full-time shooting clinics since 1987, and now has his own t-shirts, his own DVD’s, his own Shooters Club (in which members can send videos of their faulty shooting form to the guru himself, who will return critiques, for just $199 a year), and his own speaking tour, having lectured the employees of Sears and KMart and Ehrlich Exterminators. What, pest killers need to be able to take a few shots, too. Ask Tom DeLay.

Anyhow, Hopla preaches an easy-to-remember system known as BEEF (Balance Elbow Eyes Follow), which is apparently more effective than my system, known as TOFU (Trick Others by Flinging it Underhand). Plus, he says vaguely Yoda-ish things.

“The rim is big,” he once told the new York Times. “If you tried to sit on it, you’d fall right in.”

“Good is not good,” he said during a recent motivational speech. “If you’re doing good you can’t be great. Good is the enemy of great….If I want to be great, I have to think different than the normal people, the good people.”

As is mandatory in Hopla pieces, let me also mention that he’s worked with Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant and Gilbert Arenas, although he and Gilbert have never practiced how to shoot free throws when others are whispering in your ear. What’s odd is, in June, the Raptors announced that Hopla would be with them again this upcoming season, and then suddenly he was coming to D.C. Either way, he immediately becomes the most bloggable assistant coach in this city, with apologies to Mr. 700 Pages and future Champions Tour golfer Mark Simpson.

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