Q&A: Culpo, optimistic despite struggles

Paul Culpo.

Coach Paul Culpo has spent over a decade as the men’s head basketball coach here at Castleton. Culpo has seen the team have successful stretches in the past but more recently the Spartans have been struggling in the win column. But he still has high expectations for his ball club and believes his program is moving in the right direction. We sat down with Coach Culpo to see his outlook on what’s happened in the past and what’ll happen in the future.

Q. What’s the expectations for the team coming into the 2023-24 season?

A. The expectations as a team is for us to make the conference tournament. I believe that’s a reasonable goal. I really felt that last year’s team would’ve made the conference tournament had we not suffered some of the injuries we did. This team is similar, so health will matter and I hope we can keep our guys healthy. If we do that, I believe we’ll be competitive.

Q. Any transfers you feel will have a big impact this season?

A. Joe Russell is a very good player and unfortunately he missed most of last year, Will Radcliff is back who also got hurt last year. So those two are really to me first-year players in our program with the time they’ve missed. Scott who is a transfer from Colby-Sawyer will provide us some scoring. Scoring was a challenge for us last year so he’ll make a big difference. Will Radcliff gives us size but he’s also a competitive kid who has a great attitude. He’s very skilled for a guy at his size and he’s unselfish. I think most important of all I think Will loves Castleton.

Q. Do you believe any underclassmen will have an impact this season?

A. It’s kind of a weird roster because we have three grad players, a fourth-year senior, and then you have three freshmen that will play minutes for us. So everyday we’re evaluating practice, looking for guys to separate themselves.

Q. How important is a veteran presence for your team?

A. It matters for us because we don’t have the overall experience that most teams have. Players like Patrick Forstmann and Brandon Cahill, see those guys transferred in last year. They may be labeled as juniors, but in reality for me they’re sophomores because they’ve only played one season here. So it’s tricky because people haven’t played much. I think the guys expect a lot from themselves this season and I do expect us to surprise some teams this year.

Q.What’s your coaching philosophy?

A. Competitions. I want competitive players. Obviously, you need to have talent but outside of just talent, I think how much someone is willing to compete can help. I think we’ve done a good job to reshape the program with more kids that care about the end result and not necessarily their minutes, numbers, and stats.

Q. What do you feel needs to happen in order to get the program going in the right trajectory?

A. Confidence is a big thing. I think when you’ve been in the rut you’ve been in, losing can become a confidence killer. I think some kids would have a different outlook with a couple breaks that could’ve happened for us last year. We had several games last year that we just blew. We had games won last year that we let get away from us and I think those moments have kind of snowballed over the last couple of years. I think we have enough now that we’ll prevent those type of games from happening. When we begin to get some of those wins, that’s when our confidence begins to grow.

Q. Can you tell me about the LEC conference and how you guys stack up against the rest of the LEC?

A. I think we have a chance to win the LEC. That’s just me personally and some people may think I’m crazy, but I think we have a chance to win. Like I said, the biggest thing for us is health. We don’t have a ton of depth, but I think we have enough guys to cause problems for teams.

Q. What’s been the toughest part about coaching here at Castleton?

A. I’ve made this comment many times, but I believe if Castleton was in Whitehall, New York and called Whitehall University, we’d have more successful recruiting. I don’t know what it is. Vermont is like the North Pole to kids. So, it’s harder to recruit. I really believe if we were just 10-15 minutes down the road, our recruiting would be easier. The players we recruit sometimes don’t even realize Vermont is part of the country. It’s crazy but if you think about where we’re located and how close we are to New York State, I really do believe I’d have an easier time recruiting players.

Q. What’s been your favorite part about coaching here at Castleton?

A. The relationships, whether it’s here or anywhere else. I used to be harder on myself when I was younger. I knew I wasn’t gonna get the opportunity to connect with every single player on your roster and that used to drive me. Until one day I realized that nobody is ever gonna be able to do that. But the ones you do connect that are life-long friendships, that makes coaching worth it. I have players that coached at Hartwick that are really close with players that I’ve coached here at Castleton. That’s pretty cool!

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