Kostacopoulos, Paul (2014)
Paul Kostacopoulos first remembers coming to Maine as a little boy. “The family has always had a place up in Machias,” he recalls. Little did the kindergartener know that he would come back one day to take over, for a decade, a then-struggling baseball powerhouse at the University of Maine---and return again years later for his own induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I loved my time at Maine,” says Kosty, who is in his tenth year now at Annapolis. “Great baseball school.”
“Kosty coached the UMO Black Bears from 1997 thru 2005. Following in the footsteps of legendary Maine Coach John Winkin, he took over a program that had struggled for a couple years, and almost immediately restored it to a level of success.
In l997, Kosty led the Black Bears to a 24-27 record, and a 16-8 mark in all-important America East conference play—five wins more than the preceding year. For this, Coach Kostacopoulos was award Coach of the Year honors in America East.
2002 was a perhaps a high water mark year for Kosty with the Black Bears. The team had a 40-win season, and earned its first of two NCAA national tourney appearances they would have during the Kostacopoulos years at Orono. Maine beat Southern Mississippi 12-2 in the first round of the tournament for the program’s first NCAA tourney win since l991 (last year of Mark Sweeney’s UMO career). The Middletown, Connecticut native also led the Bears into the NCAA tourney again in 2005. UMaine had a 35-19 record under Kosty in 2005 and won America East.
Kosty finished his UMO years with a record of 284—195 (.583 winning percentage). He coached several players who went on to distinguished professional careers—e.g. outfelder Simon Williams, right handed pitchers Mike McDonald and Mike Collar.
Paul coached at Providence College prior to coming to UMO. He became the youngest Division 1 baseball head coach when he was hired to coach his alma mater Friars team in l990 at age 25. Kosty coached two players at Providence who went on to long careers in MLB—Lou Merloni, and John McDonald, both infielders with stops at Fenway Park. Kosty himself had been a 2B man at Providence, captain his senior year,l987, hitting .260, and chosen Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach Kostacopoulos was well known during his Orono years for the time and energy he put into kids skills clinics. Not only did he rejuvenate the Black Bear campus-based sessions, he also started a statewide organization, SMART BASEBALL INC., that did clinics, often sponsored by local business throughout the 16 counties of Maine. Those clinics included not just baseball, but also talking with kids about the importance of school work, nutrition, and being a good family member and teammate. “He spoke to a Legion baseball banquet of ours once. It was all about life lessons, being dedicated to baseball, committed to your team. He was a great role model for us,” said Rick Libby, ex-Libby-Mitchell Post 76 Legion coach,Scarborough.
Kosty has always had deep ties to the state of Maine. His father, Pete Kostacopoulos was long time coach at Bowdoin in the l960s before going on to coach Wesleyan for more than two decades. Paul’s brother, Pete, also has ties to baseball in the state of Maine, having coached at Colby College, along with stops at Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and now Worcester Academy in Massachusetts (where he has been assisted from time to time by Maine Baseball HOFer Bo McFarland; McFarland also coached at Bowdoin as an assistant both in baseball and basketball 2009 on).
Coach Kostacopoulos just finished his 8th season at Navy. His teams have won 233 games there—an average of almost 30 per year. Paul is married to the former Joan Powers, and they have two children, Annie, and Matthew. They live in Maryland, where they moved at the end of the 2006 Maine season, when Paul accepted the head coaching position at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Simon Williams recalls his days playing for Kosty fondly. “He was a great coach, and a strong leader. He knew what he wanted us to do, and helped us do it. I learned a lot from him about baseball, and also life skills.”
Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said Kosty has been an impressive coach at all colleges he has been with since 1990.
“Paul has brought a wealth of experience to Navy as a Division 1 head coach. His success speaks for itself. His personality, work ethic, organizational skills, leadership, vision, and family values have made him a perfect fit for the U.S. Naval Academy.”
Kosty said similar things about his days at UMaine.
“I think I helped the program at Orono, and I think the University of Maine gave me a chance to learn and develop and grow as a coach. It was a great experience, and I am glad I was able to contribute to a lot of success there.”
College roundup: Kostacopoulos earns 900th career coaching victory 8/4/18