On Monday, Briarcrest Christian School hired a first-time varsity head baseball coach who has made it clear he wants to build a program the right way.
Craig Hopkins will take over Briarcrest’s baseball program, filling the interim position held by Brian Stewart, head football coach for the Saints, since October.
“I am unbelievably excited,” he said. “I’m thrilled for this opportunity.”
Hopkins comes from Collierville High School, where he has been the head coach of the AAA squad, equivalent to a junior varsity team elsewhere, for two seasons.
“He was involved in one of the premiere programs in town,” Briarcrest Athletic Director Joe Rowell said. “We expect him to come in with passion and energy and to continue to help our program.”
As for what Hopkins expects for himself, he’s still unsure.
“My expectations…I’m still learning them,” he said with a laugh, pointing out that he was hired only Monday. “I have high expectations [for this season] to build trust amongst players and coaches, to teach fundamentals and skills so that [the players] are prepared to play the game the right way.”
Rowell recalled a philosophy that Hopkins shared with him during the interview process: playing ball the right way.
“If you take care and do the things that we tell you to do,” Hopkins said, “winning will take care of itself.”
Because of that mindset, Hopkins said he doesn’t use the word win often, noting that it should be obvious that winning is the goal at this level. He also said it could burden high school students with unnecessary pressure. Instead, he teaches players how to play, so that winning will come naturally.
“He has a great baseball mind,” Rowell said. “He has a tremendous legacy both playing and coaching.”
Hopkins played for the University of Memphis from 1997-2000 under recently retired Collierville Head Coach Jeff Hopkins, who is his uncle. Craig played high school baseball and football at Houston High School, and attended the now defunct Skyview Academy before that.
As a child, he attended his uncle’s baseball camps at Jackson State Community College.
Hopkins credits his uncle with much of his growth, both as a coach and as a man. He said that Jeff gave him his first coaching opportunity 10 years ago at Collierville, and that he’s received a “wealth of knowledge” from him.
“One thing I’ve learned from [Jeff],” Craig said, “you never stop learning in this game and never stop learning in life.”
Hopkins will take over a Briarcrest team that just finished as state runners-up under Stewart. Although he noted he needs to form chemistry with his players and new coaching staff, Hopkins said that there won’t be much difference between coaching at Briarcrest and coaching at Collierville.
“Kids at Briarcrest and Collierville have similar backgrounds,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s baseball.”
And at the end of the day, the Briarcrest family feels it added a great new coach, in Rowell’s estimation.
“We’re really excited about him.”