An Enterprising Volunteer : Hopkins Does His Work for Nothing, Gets His Kicks for Free as Laguna Beach Assistant

Times Staff Writer

If life seems to smile on some people, then it must have given John Hopkins an ear-to-ear grin, a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. Whether it’s in the athletic, academic or business world, success has followed Hopkins like a shadow.

An all-league football, basketball and baseball player at Downey’s Pius X High School, Hopkins was such a star that youngsters would ask for his autograph. Throw in his good looks and good grades and you had the makings of an All-American success story.

But this was only Chapter One.

After graduating from Pius X in 1973, Hopkins went to Washington State on a football scholarship. He started two seasons at quarterback for the Cougars, earning All-Pacific 8 honors in his junior year. He graduated in 1977 with a 3.4 grade-point average, good enough for a spot on the president’s honor roll.


Then in 1978, Hopkins joined his brother’s development company, which Steve Hopkins had started in 1972 with only himself and a secretary.

Today, the Newport Beach-based Hopkins Development Co., which specializes in small shopping centers, has a staff of 35. It has gone from handling four projects a year in 1978 to nearly 15 a year.

For John Hopkins, 31, business couldn’t be better. And neither could life.

He has a 4-year-old son and a 2 1/2-year-old daughter. His wife, Stephanie, is expecting their third child. Thanks to the Hopkins’ lucrative business, John and his family can afford to live in one of Orange County’s most exclusive communities--the Nellie Gail Ranch in Laguna Hills.


Yes, John Hopkins has it all.

And now it’s time to give something back.

That’s why Hopkins spent a few weeks last summer working with Laguna Beach quarterback Danny Lane, passing on his knowledge of the position and working to refine the junior’s skills. That’s why he spends two or three nights a week working on the Artists’ offense and game nights in the press box, calling all of Laguna Beach’s plays.

Hopkins doesn’t do it for the money--he’s a volunteer coach. He does it for the kids.


“I’m not trying to live out any old fantasies,” Hopkins said. “I had a great playing career, but it’s over. What I’m doing now is fun, and I think I’m helping some kids out. I may be squeezing it in, but I make the time for it because it’s important to me.”

How important? Last Thursday night, Hopkins flew to Monterey and spent most of Friday there working. He caught a 3 p.m. flight to Orange County and was in the press box Friday night for the Artists’ game against Costa Mesa. He returned to Monterey Saturday morning and spent the weekend finishing his business.

“I don’t want it to look like I’m the genius coming in on Friday nights to do this,” Hopkins said. “The other coaches do a tremendous job of preparing the kids for Friday nights, and that makes my job easier.”

Hopkins does his share, too. He usually spends Monday nights watching film of the Artists’ upcoming opponent and devising new plays. He stops by practice on Tuesday or Wednesday to make sure the plays are being run correctly, and he remains in telephone contact with Laguna Beach Coach Lloyd Cotton throughout the week.


Hopkins isn’t an everyday coach, but he thinks the players respect his ability to call plays.

“Hey, we’re 6-1, so something must be working,” he said.

What he stressed to Lane is learning how to read defenses and avoid interceptions. Going into tonight’s game against Laguna Hills, Lane, in his first year as a varsity quarterback, has been intercepted just twice in 101 attempts. He has passed for 786 yards and 5 touchdowns.

“That’s not bad,” Hopkins said.


Hopkins began helping the Artists last year when his friend and former Washington State teammate, Eric Johnson, the offensive coordinator at Laguna Beach, asked him to work with his quarterbacks and help call a few plays from the press box.

Hopkins continued to work with the quarterbacks this summer and, when Johnson left the team a week before the 1986 season, he took over as primary play-caller.

“My coaching duties, due to circumstances, escalated further than anyone expected,” Hopkins said. “Last year, it was great if I could be there. Now, it’s more like, ‘We really need you there.’ ”

But Hopkins won’t go as far as calling himself the offensive coordinator.


“I’m not really big on titles,” he said. “I’m not sure what I am, and I really don’t care.”

He carries a similar attitude in his business, too. Hopkins could call himself a chief executive officer or an executive vice president of Hopkins Development. But he shuns the formal titles, preferring to call he and his brother simply “partners.”

What a pair. Hopkins Development Co. has grown into one of the county’s most active small shopping center developers. The company, which owns and operates out of a two-story, 16,000-square-foot building in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, is expanding its offices.

“We’re just getting too big,” Hopkins said. “But it’s been a controlled growth. We’re not going to do anything that’s crazy. We may even be a bit understaffed right now.”


John’s job is to oversee the company’s day-to-day development activities, including construction, leasing and the selection of project managers. His main emphasis is on handling major tenant transactions, such as the negotiation of leases or purchases.

Hopkins sees parallels in business and coaching.

“To do successful development, you need to be patient, and to be a successful football coach, you need to be patient,” he said. “If kids don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish the first time, you need to take time to explain it. And during a game, you need to be patient in setting up your plays so you can pop the big one down the line.”

Lately, Hopkins has been involved in the redevelopment of old buildings.


“Redevelopment is a lot like football, too, in a sense that it’s very strategic, it’s complicated, and you’ve got to solve problems,” Hopkins said. “And once you’ve done all that, there’s a great reward in the end.”

For John Hopkins, the rewards have been many.