Wagner College Interim President Angelo Araimo and Director of Athletics Walt Hameline have announced the hiring of Donald Copeland as Wagner’s 19th head men’s basketball coach.
“We are excited to welcome Donald Copeland back to Grymes Hill as we begin to write a new chapter in Wagner men’s basketball history,” Araimo said. “Coach Copeland knows what it means to be a Seahawk, and we look forward to seeing him recruit, develop, and mentor our student-athletes into winners on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”
“We are proud to introduce Donald Copeland as our new head men’s basketball coach,” Hameline commented. “After discussions with current and former players as well as a thorough interview process, Donald stood out as the clear favorite for the job. This hire helps us build upon our recent success and brings a proven winner aboard to continue the rich tradition of basketball at Wagner College. We are confident that Donald will bring talented student-athletes to Wagner who will excel in the classroom and community while making our fans proud with their performance on the court.”
“I would like to thank Angelo Araimo and Walt Hameline for this tremendous opportunity,” Copeland added. “Having started my coaching career here, returning to Wagner is a special moment for me and my family. Bashir Mason left this program in great shape and I’m thankful for our friendship. I’m excited to get to work with our student-athletes and promise that we will do everything we can to make our students, alumni, and fans proud on and off the court.”
Copeland, who spent last season as an assistant coach at Big East member Seton Hall, returns to Grymes Hill after serving six years on the Seahawks’ staff, including four seasons as an assistant coach.
Copeland played an integral role in the Seahawks’ recent success. Over the course of those six seasons with Copeland on staff, Wagner won three Northeast Conference regular season championships, advanced to the NEC Tournament final twice, appeared in the NIT twice, including an upset win over top-seeded St. Bonaventure in 2016, and compiled an NEC league record of 64-44.
This past season, Copeland was part of a Seton Hall team that earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament after compiling a 21-11 record along with an 11-8 mark in Big East play.
Copeland helped lead the Seahawks to a 13-7 overall record and 13-5 mark in Northeast Conference play in 2020-21 as Wagner earned a third regular season championship and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament during Copeland’s tenure on Grymes Hill.
During one of the toughest seasons college basketball has ever seen, Copeland helped the 2020-21 Seahawks to a regular season championship after being picked eighth in the preseason poll. The Seahawks rewrote the record books as the Green and White won 10 straight games.
In the process, senior Alex Morales was named NEC Player of the Year and freshman DeLonnie Hunt earned Rookie of the Year honors while head coach Bashir Mason was recognized as NEC Coach of the Year and senior Elijah Ford was named to the All-NEC First Team. The 2020-21 season marked the first time Wagner has ever won NEC Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season and first time since 2007-08 that two Seahawks earned First Team All-NEC status.
The 2017-18 season ended with a 23-10 overall record, highlighted by a 14-4 mark in conference play that garnered a regular season conference championship and the league’s automatic bid to the postseason NIT. That season, the team set a program record for home victories and consecutive wins when the Seahawks rattled off 16 straight prior to the conference championship game, tied for the second-longest streak in the NCAA that year.
In Copeland’s first season on Grymes Hill, he was part of a staff that guided Wagner to the 2015-16 NEC Tournament Championship game and a berth in the National Invitational Tournament, which was highlighted by the program’s first-ever postseason victory, an impressive 79-75 win at top-seeded St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Seahawks’ NIT appearance in 2015-16 capped a 23-11 season that included a 13-5 NEC mark which earned Wagner the league’s regular season championship and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
Wagner finished the 2016-17 season with a 16-14 record and an 11-7 mark in conference play as the Seahawks compiled an overall record of 39-25 over Copeland’s first two seasons on staff, headlined by an NEC mark of 24-12. That year, Copeland helped the Seahawks advance to the semifinals of the NEC Tournament.
The Jersey City native arrived on Grymes Hill prior to the start of the 2015-16 campaign after enjoying a near decade-long professional career that spanned seven countries.
While playing in Puerto Rico, Copeland captured two professional championships, in 2011 and 2015, with the last coming as a member of Leones de Ponce.
Before embarking on his professional career, Copeland was a standout guard at Seton Hall. While a member of the Pirates, the Garden State product helped lead them to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in his sophomore (2004) and senior (2006) seasons.
In helping lead the Pirates to an 18-12 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a senior in 2005-06, Copeland led the Hall in a host of statistical categories including scoring (16.1 ppg), assists (4.5), steals (41), three-pointers (71) and free-throw percentage (84.4). For the season, he ranked third in the Big East in assists per game (5.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.69).
After being named to both the All-Big East and All-Metropolitan Second Teams, Copeland was tabbed as Seton Hall’s Senior Male Athlete of the Year.
Before accepting a full scholarship at Seton Hall, Copeland played for legendary head coach Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony, helping lead the Friars to New Jersey State Championships in 2001 and 2002, with the latter team ranking No. 2 in the nation. He earned First-Team All-State and First-Team All-Tri-State honors following his senior season of 2001-02.
In 2006, Copeland earned his bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies at Seton Hall. In addition to his duties on the Wagner basketball staff, Copeland earned a master’s degree in business administration from Wagner in 2018.