'Mr. Karp,' winner Boys soccer: Bill Karpovich, coach at Calvert Hall for 30 seasons, just crossed the 400 mark in career wins, third nationally among active coaches and, by far, tops in Maryland.

November 09, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

"The little Polish kid from Baltimore Street and Linwood Avenue," as Bill Karpovich calls himself, was somewhat out of his element. Nearly 40 years ago, he was a Johns Hopkins University freshman and said he "felt like the first East Baltimore kid to go there."

"When I wasn't playing sports, I worked for years at Block's drug store, which is still on that corner," said Karpovich, a 1957 Patterson High School graduate who starred in baseball, his first love, and soccer. "Hopkins was a different world. Let's say I got a lesson in wealth and culture."

Karpovich, 57, has spent most of the last three decades applying some of that experience to building a soccer dynasty at Calvert Hall, winning 17 Maryland Scholastic Association or Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association titles. He's seeking No. 18 today against No. 2 Curley at UMBC.

A renowned disciplinarian, he's still called "Mr. Karp" by former players. They include Tim Wittman, who grew up near Herring Run Park and maintains he "would be in jail or somewhere else if it wasn't for Mr. Karp."

"He knew the score with me and got in my face and stayed there until I got the point," said Wittman, 33, whose 16-year professional career includes time with Baltimore's Blast and Spirit.

In 1980, Wittman became the second of six Calvert Hall players to earn All-Metro Player of the Year honors from The Sun.

The others are Brian Kirby (1978), Chris Reif (1983), Bill Karpovich Jr. (1986), Rob Elliott (1988) and J. J. Kremer (1991).

Karpovich's overall record (402-82-33) over 30 seasons gives him an .809 winning percentage, or an average of 13.4 wins, 2.7 losses and 1.1 ties a year. And that ranks him third nationally among active coaches, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Nationally, Karpovich trails only Gene Chyzowych (523-116-47), who is 60 and in his 33rd season at Columbia High in Maplewood, N.J., and Gene Baker (466-101-44), who is 53 and in his 30th coaching season in of Granite City, Ill.

Four Maryland coaches have comparable winning percentages: Prince George's County Northwestern's Tom Stickles (325-45-8, .870, over 33 seasons); Middletown's Bob Sheffler (271-48-14, .834, 23 seasons); Thomas Stone's Tom Parker (222-47-7, .817, 21 seasons); and River Hill's Bill Stara (209-23-10, .884, 15 seasons).

So impressive is Karpovich's achievement that, for example, Stara, who is just 39 but is averaging 13.9 victories a year (and an unprecedented seventh state title at Centennial in '95) will need to maintain that pace another 14 seasons to reach Karpovich's 402.

"We've scrimmaged Karp every year since 1971, with the intensity of official games. Every time we beat them, we won a state title," said Sam Debone, who was 231-94-22 with four state titles at Montgomery County's Walt Whitman High School until moving to UMBC as assistant coach last season. "Karp could coach collegiately or professionally. But he likes high school's teaching aspect, influencing young lives."

The silver-haired math teacher has been around long enough to be coaching sons of a few of his former players.

Mike Schaeffer Jr., son of a 1972 graduate, is the top midfielder on this year's 20-0-1 team, which has 12 shutouts and is ranked No. 7 nationally in USA Today. Jerry Geraughty, whose son, John, plays now for Karpovich, too, was part of the team that recorded Calvert Hall's first victory, 1-0, over Dundalk in 1967.

Only two losing seasons

What began as a winner, though, would end up a loser: the Cardinals went 5-6-1 that inaugural season. But it was a start, and another 22 years would pass before Karpovich experienced his only other losing season -- the 1989 team went 6-8-1.

On Nov. 8, 1990, on day before getting his 300th career victory, Karpovich said: "Some people had me retiring four years ago. But actually, it's year-to-year."

He's still coaching.

"Bill's never missed a day of school or practice in 30 years," said Theo, 55, his wife of 34 years. "He comes home every day a little more tired than usual, and physically, I've suggested he change his style -- maybe not demonstrate his drills so much. But that's the kind of commitment he has. When it's over, there will be a void to fill."

After losing more league games (four) and missing last year's league title game for only the third time, Karpovich had a heart-to-heart talk with this year's players. The topic: Should I stay or should I go? They wanted him to stay.

"I'm a teacher first, and if they're not learning, I'm not conveying my message," said Karpovich. "I've recognized that kids require different kinds of motivation than they did years ago."

Part of what has changed from his early coaching days is the emergence of club and Olympic Developmental Programs, a trend of year-round soccer that began in the mid-'70s and now commands the time of many better high-school age players. Club teams, especially, play many more games a year than high school teams.

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