A coach who took a struggling Division III women’s basketball program and turned it into a perennial conference contender has been hired to head the highly successful George Fox University women’s program.
Michael Coppolino, who led Mount Saint Mary College of Newburgh, New York, to an 18-0 Skyline Conference record and 23-6 overall mark in 2018-19, will take the reins of a George Fox team that has established itself as one of the nation’s most consistent winners at the D-III level, with three Final Four appearances, six Elite-8 seasons, nine Sweet-16 showings and one national championship (2009) since the 2000-01 season.
Coppolino replaces Michael Meek, who guided the Bruins to a 230-35 overall record, six Northwest Conference titles, eight NCAA tournament appearances and two NCAA national runner-up finishes in his nine seasons at the helm. Meek announced this spring he will be taking the head women’s coaching job at NCAA Division I University of Portland.
In his six seasons as head coach at Mount Saint Mary College, Coppolino posted a 91-69 overall record, including a 69-27 mark against Skyline Conference rivals. In the past two years combined, his Knights went 35-1 in Skyline Conference play, and in 2019 the squad recorded the school’s sixth-ever win in the NCAA Tournament with an 85-80 victory over Westfield State in the opening round.
Mount Saint Mary’s recent success stands in contrast to the 2013-14 season, when the Knights went 5-20. Coppolino, an interim head coach on that squad, has turned the program’s fortunes around, making the jump from nine wins to 14 victories from year two to year three before posting 19-, 21- and 23-win seasons. For his accomplishments, he was named the Skyline Conference’s Coach of the Year in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
“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.
“The head coaching position for our program attracted an incredible number of talented coaches from across the nation. I am thankful for a fantastic group of coworkers who served on our hiring committee, spending countless hours selecting the right coach. 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 said he is looking forward to the opportunity to coach at a university “that values each student individually – where they are known by name and not just a number.”
“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.”
Prior to taking over the women’s basketball program at Mount Saint Mary, Coppolino served as the assistant coach on the school’s men’s basketball team, helping with recruiting, on-court coaching and player development during the 2012-13 campaign. He helped steer the Knights to a 19-9 overall record, including a 14-4 mark in Skyline play. Coppolino has also led the college’s men’s golf program since 2014.
Before his arrival at Mount Saint Mary, Coppolino was an assistant coach with Alfred University’s men’s basketball program in 2011-12. Previously, he was a clubhouse attendant with the Boston Red Sox from 2000 to 2011, where he won two World Series rings in 2004 and 2007.
A 2007 graduate of Eckerd College with a degree in business management, Coppolino completed a master’s degree in business administration at Alfred University in 2012. He and his wife, Jessica, plan to make the move from New York’s “Newburgh” to Oregon’s “Newberg” in the coming months.DIII