Suffolk Grad Living a Hoop Dream

4/8/2003

By Tony Ferullo

The newest member of the Boston Celtics can’t dunk, shoot the 3, crossover dribble, post up, or make the no-look pass.

But Mike Procopio does know the game.

The pride of Revere, Procopio was recently hired by the Celtics as a basketball operations assistant. Although it’s an entry-level position, this self-proclaimed “hoop junkie,” couldn’t be happier.

“I’m very excited to be part of the Boston Celtics organization,” said Procopio, who graduated from Revere High School in 1993 and Suffolk University in 1997. “The first few days I was in awe, but then I realized that I had a job to do.”

He reports to Celtics’ general manager Chris Wallace and director of player personnel Leo Papile. His various responsibilities include gathering information on teams and players throughout the NBA and other professional leagues.

“This is a great job and I’m learning a lot,” said the 27-year-old Procopio, who shares the same birthday as Dick Vitale. “There is nothing better than getting paid to do something you love.”

He grew up in the West End of Boston, ironically enough, next door to where the FleetCenter now stands and across the street from the Celtics’ administrative offices. He has been a big fan of the Green and White all his life.

“I remember watching the Celtics play on this small screen, black and white TV when I was in the first grade,” said Procopio. “Those were the days when Larry Bird and Dr. J put on a show every time they faced each other.”

A year later, he and his family moved to Revere. He spent many hours shooting hoops with friends on the basketball courts at the McKinley School and Hill Park. His passion for the game grew as he got older.

When he was in the seventh grade, he would continuously talk basketball with his math and history teacher, John “Buddy” O’Neil, a longtime coach at the local college and high school level. “He knew so much about the sport,” said Procopio. “He was like a basketball encyclopedia.”

One day, O’Neil, now the head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Masconomet Regional High School in Topsfield, asked Procopio why he hadn’t done his homework.

“I told him I didn’t have time because I was up until one o’clock in the morning watching the Fullerton State-Long Beach State game on ESPN,” laughed Procopio.

At Revere High, he was one of those players who had more heart than talent. After graduating, he entered Suffolk University, where he was manager of the men’s basketball team for three years. He proudly recalls the knowledge and guidance he received from Jim Nelson, the Rams’ former head coach and now the school’s highly respected athletic director.

“Coach Nelson is one of the finest individuals I’ve ever met,” boasted Procopio, whose resume also includes coaching the RHS jayvee boys’ basketball squad during the 1996-97 season, followed by a year as an assistant coach at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg. “I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.”

His big break came years ago while he was keeping score during a men’s summer league game at Hill Park. That’s when former NBA referee Paul Campbell, a veteran official throughout the New England area, handed Procopio a piece of paper containing Papile’s phone number. Papile, the founder and head coach of the BABC (Boston Amateur Basketball Club) for 27 years, has basketball contacts worldwide.

Working alongside Papile with the BABC, one of the nation’s top high school programs on the AAU circuit year after year, taught Procopio some valuable lessons.
“I learned how to deal with players and how to juggle many different things at once,” he said. “I also got a chance to meet a lot of influential people in the game.”

Each summer, he works at the best basketball camps around the country, including the one run by Michael Jordan. He is always picking up different drills and tricks of the trade, many of which he utilizes in developing players at all competitive levels.

About six years ago, Procopio received a Dr. Seuss book, titled, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! from his RHS classmate, Heather Kelly. On the inside back cover, Kelly drew a timeline of Procopio’s involvement in the game of basketball over the years. The last segment revealed that her good friend would be working for the Boston Celtics someday.

When he first read it, Mike Procopio smiled. He then wondered about the possibility, particularly when his head hit the pillow each night.

Some hoop dreams are just meant to come true.

Back to News »