When Matt Karpowicz graduated from Williams College in June, he did not have a job lined up.
Today, assuming the COVID-19 pandemic will allow Worcester Polytechnic Institute to play basketball in the 2020-21 season, Karpowicz will be on the sidelines as an assistant to head coach Chris Bartley.
That Karpowicz, who played four years for head coach Kevin App, is taking his Williams degree and moving into coaching, does not surprise his former coach.
“I’ve been around academic schools, and I know my own personal experience, so it never shocks me one way or the other,” App said. “Guys that come to schools like Williams find their passions. It wouldn’t have surprised me one way or the other.
“Like I told Coach Bartley, he’s going to be in the office and not even realize he’s working. I think that’s what you hope for.”
Karpowicz will join the staff of a perennial New England power. The Engineers were 20-8 last year and made the NCAA Division III tournament, where they lost in the first round to then 13th-ranked Yeshiva 102-78.
Originally, the Wellesley native had plans to continue playing.
“I had entertained the idea of playing after I graduated. My original plan, when school got shut down, school’s cancelled but I’m staying out here” in Williamstown, Karpowicz said, “and I’m going to get in the gym every day and become the best basketball player I’ve ever been. Hopefully, find my way overseas. There was no gym, there was no nothing. These showcases I was planning on attending were pretty iffy. I think coaching was always something that was in the back of my mind, and it kind of got moved up to the front of my mind.
“I just wasn’t ready to be done with basketball yet.”
Karpowicz joins a pretty large staff at WPI. Jeff Robinson, who graduated from WPI in 2011, is Bartley’s full-time assistant, and is going into his third season. WPI grad David Brown is another part-time coach, who is in his fifth year, while Mike Costantino joins Karpowicz as first-year, part-time assistants. Coincidentally, Karpowicz and Costantino have media duties in common. Karpowicz wrote for the “Nothing but NESCAC” website, while Costantino had been a production assistant at NBC Sports Boston, while also being an assistant coach at St. Bernard’s High School in Fitchburg.
“We were looking to bring in a good part-time assistant coach,” Bartley said, in a phone interview with The Eagle. “We found out about Matt through Scott [Faucher, the head coach at Assumption], who had known him. I called Kevin App and talked to him, and I eventually connected with Matt. As things are done now, I got on a Zoom call with Matt and my full-time assistant, Jeff Robinson. We talked basketball. We talked about his interest in getting into the coaching world. One thing led to another, and here we are.
“I’m ready to keep winning some games and keep chasing the dream.”
Karpowicz was a first-team, All-NESCAC selection 2019-20, as the Ephs finished 13-12. He averaged 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds for App’s squad last year, and was the only Williams player to start each of the team’s 25 games. He averaged 27.6 minutes per game.
The high-water mark for the Eph center was in a December loss to Springfield College, where he had 29 points and 20 rebounds in a 76-75 loss to Springfield. It was the second of eight double-doubles Karpowicz recorded in 2019-20. He scored more than 20 points on six different occasions.
It’s Karpowicz’s skill set, along with his basketball knowledge, that enticed the WPI coach. It is rare that a Division III coaching staff has a coach who can work with the bigs out of experience.
“That is absolutely true,” said Bartley. “It seems like there are so many more guards and point guards that get into coaching, and not as many post players. We have one of the best post players in the country, who will be a senior this year, in Garrett Stephenson and I think having somebody like Matt, who was a really good player at Williams and who played in a really good program, I think he could help take Garrett to that next step.”
Stephenson, a 6-foot-7 senior, averaged 15.9 points and 6.2 rebounds last year, and is being counted on to take the next step in his development. He was a member of the D3hoops.com All-New England third team last year. Karpowicz was named to the fourth team.
“That was one of the biggest things I had going for me,” Karpowicz said, not trying to make a pun. “They have never really had anyone on the coaching staff with a lot of post experience.”
Karpowicz will work with Stephenson and incoming first-year John Adams, a 6-foot-8 post player from Wilbraham and Monson Academy, who was the No. 25 player in Massachusetts last year.
“He’s the highest-rated D3 recruit [at WPI] in a long, long time. The prospect of having me work with him is very exciting,” Karpowicz said. “It’s also very funny to me that me and Garrett will be working together. He was the third-team All-Northeast center and I was fourth team. I don’t know much I have to teach him.”
App said he anticipates that Karpowicz will become a good coach.
“He loves basketball and he loves the team aspect of everything,” App said. “He wants what’s best for the team. He’ll sit in the office and talk basketball all day. He’s not afraid to throw a counterpoint out there too. It’s moreso the relationship part. He loves his teammates — from his club team, his high school team and the team here at Williams.
“I think that’s a good foundation for a coach.”