Thursday, May 21
Paul Culpo certainly beat the odds.

The Pittsfield native and St. Joseph's basketball standout beat out more than 200 others to become the new men's basketball coach at Castleton State (Vt.) College.

"Isn't that unbelievable?" Culpo said when reached by phone Wednesday night. "It gives you insight into how crazy and competitive the college basketball industry is. It's nuts.

"I told someone today, 'If you think about that for a second, I should go out and play the lottery.' "

The 38-year-old Culpo, a 1988 St. Joseph's graduate, was introduced Wednesday as the 19th coach in Castleton State history. He succeeds Ted Shipley, who was coaching both baseball and basketball at the NCAA Division III school, but decided to focus solely on baseball in late March.

Culpo, head coach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., for six years, had a 15-12 season this year. The team won its first-ever ECAC Upstate Championship.

He said it was both the right time to leave Hartwick and an exciting time to join Castleton State.

"It was clear to me that the administration was 100 percent behind their athletic programs," Culpo said. "The president that's there now has overseen a complete overhaul of their athletic department."

Culpo has his work cut out for him — the Spartans were 2-23 last year, losing their last 11 games of the season and finishing just 1-13 in the North Atlantic Conference.


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Castleton is, however, just two seasons removed from an ECAC Tournament berth and made the Division III tournament in 2004.

"Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment," Culpo joked. "Obviously, I went to Hartwick when the program was down. I was really happy with my years at Hartwick. I think it was just time for a change for me."

The new coach and Pittsfield Hoop Club Hall of Fame candidate said his first moves when he gets to Vermont will be to change the daily habits of the players to positive ones.

"We have to get some discipline," he said. "Everything has to be revamped — the way we go about conditioning, the offseason and in-season work is going to change.

"Once that gets established, you'll see improvement on the court."

Culpo hasn't met with his new players and likely won't in person until he arrives at Castleton in July. He has, however, been in contact with graduate assistant Tim Sparks, who will be retained, and will begin calling his Spartan players today.

Meanwhile, he believes the next Hartwick coach will inherit a strong program.

"My message to the team was they have something really good going," Culpo said. "I would not have wanted to (leave) a bare program."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.