Bruins look to the Sky(line) for next coach

More news about: George Fox | Mount St. Mary
Michael Coppolino led Mount St. Mary to an increasing number of wins in each of his six seasons with the Knights.
Mount St. Mary athletics photo

Michael Coppolino will move from Newburgh (N.Y.) where he led Mount St. Mary back to prominence in the Skyline to Newburg (Ore.) where he'll be charged with keeping George Fox as national title contenders.

George Fox announced the hire on Friday.

"I am excited to be bringing Michael Coppolino into our program and am confident he understands our values of athletic excellence, academic success and Christ-like character, recognizing the high bar set by previous coaches Michael Meek and Scott Rueck," said George Fox athletic director Adam Puckett.

"Mike's passion, determination to win, and his basketball acumen shined through during the interview process, and I am confident we have found the best candidate to lead our program into the future."

Coppolino follows in the footsteps of two extremely successful coaches at George Fox. Scott Rueck won 288 games in 14 seasons, including the 2009 National Championship, and established the Bruins as a national power. Michael Meek kept the Bruins there, winning 230 games in nine seasons and leading George Fox to the 2015 national title game. Both coaches jumped from George Fox to Division I programs. Rueck has built Oregon State into a Top 25 program and Meek recently took the job at Portland.

Coppolino had a successful tenure of his own at Mount St. Mary.

One week into the 2012-13 season Coppolino moved from assistant head coach into the interim head coaching position when J. Randall Ognibene was dismissed by the College after 33 seasons and 606 wins. Ognibene said at the time that he was dismissed because of allegations of verbal abuse. The Knights dropped from being perennial 20-game winners to 5-20 in that tumultuous first season.

Coppolino slowly built the program back up, winning nine games in his second season, 14 in his third season and 19 in his fourth season. In 2017-18 Mount St. Mary returned to the top of the Skyline Conference, going 17-1 in the regular season before losing to SUNY-Old Westbury in the conference title game. Last season the Knights went 23-6, 18-0 in conference and received an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The Knights defeated Westfield State in the first round and then were eliminated by Christopher Newport.

Coppolino will take a big step up in terms of conference strength. The Northwest Conference where George Fox plays regularly produces Top 10 programs and went 41-20 in the NCAA Tournament with four national semifinal apperances from 2009 through 2018. The Skyline Conference's representatives were 3-11 over that same period and has not had a team reach the Top 25 since Mount St. Mary did it during the 2010-11 season.

"Looking at George Fox, I was so impressed by its 'students first' motto and the belief in empowering each student throughout their college experience," he said. "My coaching philosophy is to help each student find their passion while being an educator and role model both on and off the basketball court.

"As a coach, my core values are honesty, discipline, attitude and passion. These are important traits to have and develop in college and well beyond in your career and livelihood. Being able to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ while learning, growing and developing as a young student and person is what makes playing at a Division III school like George Fox so unique and special."

The move also marks a change of geography for Coppolino who earned his bachelor's degree from Eckerd College in Florida and his master's degree from Alfred in upstate New York. Coppolino also has the rare distinction of having two World Series rings. He was a club house attendant with the Boston Red Sox from 2000 to 2011 when they won titles in 2004 and 2007.