STOCKTON – Delta College is saddened to announce the death of Ernie Marcopulos, former basketball coach and athletic director who helped build Delta’s athletics program into one of the most competitive in the state and was a strong advocate for the advancement of women’s sports.
Born Oct. 19, 1926, Marcopulos was 96 years old when he passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
He was best known as Delta’s head basketball coach. His Mustangs dominated the Valley Conference from 1962-79 by winning or sharing 13 championships in 16 years, with a 71 percent winning record.
Coach Ernie Marcopulos, with Delta College basketball players in 1965
Upon earning his master’s degree from College of the Pacific, Marcopulos began teaching at Franklin High School in 1951 and began coaching in 1954. He immediately displayed an aptitude for coaching.
In 1957, the first year Marcopulos was the varsity basketball coach and Franklin was a true high school under current standards, he was selected Central California Conference “Coach of the Year.” In fact, Marcopulos was selected “Coach of the Year” four times from 1957-1962.
In 1962, Stockton College (as Delta College was then known) hired Marcopulos to take over its basketball program. In his first year, Marcopulos led the Mustangs to a share of the conference championship with a 23-6 record. Marcopulos’ Mustangs were also the Valley Conference champions in six of the next eight seasons. Included within this span of championships are back-to-back undefeated seasons in league play by Marcopulos’ “Century Kids” of 1965-66 and 1966-67, who were so nicknamed for averaging over 100 points a game for the season.
Incredibly, the 1966-67 “Century Kids” still hold numerous state tournament scoring records for their 150-120 thrashing of Riverside in the state tournament.
The Valley Conference got a break when Marcopulos took a sabbatical leave to Greece during the 1971-72 season. While in Greece, he was hired to coach Paok, a fledgling Greek professional team, which he immediately turned into a playoff contender. Fortunately for Delta and local basketball fans, Marcopulos turned down many offers to remain in Greece as a professional coach.
Upon his return to Delta in 1972, Marcopulos led the Mustangs to a second-place finish which, as it turned out, was the last time a Marcopulos-led Delta team did not win the conference championship. During his last six years as coach, Marcopulos’ Mustangs were champions or co-champions every year.
While Marcopulos won numerous “Coach of the Year” awards and conference championships, he received his greatest individual honor in 1976 when he was inducted into the California Community College Coaches Hall of Fame.
His commitment to Delta College extended beyond the hardwood when he became the athletic director in 1974 and continued to coach the men’s basketball team through the 1978-79 season. Marcopulos retired as athletic director in 1996.
During his reign as athletic director, Marcopulos created intercollegiate athletics for young women who sought to achieve equal opportunities on the playing field. He was a strong proponent of Title IX implementing 11 women’s sports at the college by 1979. In the 1980s and ‘90s he recruited an outstanding coaching staff and directed one of the finest athletic programs in the state.
In 1992, Marcopulos was inducted into the Stockton Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1997, the North Gym at Delta College was renamed the Ernie Marcopulos Gymnasium. In 2020, Marcopulos was inducted into the California Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
A Rosary service will be held Sunday, Nov. 6 at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Redondo Beach at 7 p.m. The funeral service will be Monday, November 7 at 11 a.m., also at St. Katherine Church.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to YMCA of San Joaquin County in the name of Ernie Marcopulos. The address is 2105 W. March Lane, Ste. 1, Stockton, CA 95207.