Rice Baseball Field
There are some fairly common factors that measure coaching success in college baseball. The familiar criteria include a coach’s wins and win-percentage, NCAA Regional bids, trips to the College World Series, winning a national championship, conference championships, All-America honorees and molding young players into major league draft picks.
It’s common criteria. Rice Owls head coach Wayne Graham has had uncommon success. After 25 full seasons at the helm of the Rice baseball program, and 36 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Graham has been one of the top coaches in the country who has built a sky-scraper of a program at Rice.
It was no surprise that in 2012 coach Graham was tabbed for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. It was even less surprising, and in fact applauded, that (at then age of 76) he was rewarded by Rice with an extension on his current contract. Clearly, the University administration realizes its Hall of Fame head coach is both a national and baseball treasure.
Rice graduate (Jones College 1990) and two-time Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year John Pope joined the Owls’ baseball staff as an assistant coach in the summer of 2016. He works primarily with the Rice pitchers.
Pope returned to his alma mater after serving the last nine seasons as the head baseball coach at Cypress Ranch High School where his squads won state championships in both 2012 and 2015. In both championship seasons the Houston native and former Owl pitcher was named the 5A/6A Coach of the Year by the Texas Sports Writers Association. With a full 19 years of coaching (and teaching) at the high school level, a host of Pope’s former players have gone on to play baseball at the college level.
Consider that the Cy Ranch baseball program Pope started from scratch in 2008 went on to win the state title four years later by the time those players were seniors in 2012. Along the way he earned a Masters (in Educational Administration from Lamar University in 2009) and worked in the leadership of the Texas High School Coaches Association. In addition to nine seasons as the head coach at Cy Ranch, Pope has coached and taught at Cy Fair, Scarborough and Westbury high schools.
Rice baseball great Paul Janish, a 2003 national champion and nine-year major league player, has accepted a position on the Owls’ baseball staff as an assistant coach, head coach Wayne Graham announced on Friday (Aug. 11).
Janish is scheduled to return to Rice in September after playing professionally the last 13 years, including nine seasons in the major leagues — most recently in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles. “I am of course very happy to have Paul come back home to Rice and join the coaching staff,” said coach Graham, who in 2017 completed his 26th season at the helm of the Owl program. “Paul has always had high character and I think he will be a great teacher and coach.
“He was a team captain for us in (the national championship season of) 2003,” Graham explained. “For all the talented players we had on that team, I am not certain we still could have won the national championship without Paul Janish at shortstop. He was a great player and great leader. His leadership qualities are among the reasons we first recruited him, well before 2003.
Volunteer Assistant Coach
Jordan Kopycinski is in his first season with the coaching staff after joining the program as a volunteer in 2017. In addition to a host of on-field coaching duties, he serves as the administrator of the Owls’ popular Youth Baseball Camps.
A native of Houston, Texas, Kopycinski works with the hitters and catchers, and he assists with the Owl Outfielders. Kopycinski previously served five seasons as a coach at Blinn Junior College. At Blinn he served as 3rd base coach working with hitters, catchers and outfielders. In five years at Blinn, Kopycinski trained 45 players who went on to attend four-year schools. In 2014 he helped Blinn reach the Junior College World Series for the first time in 22 years.
Prior to coaching at Blinn, Kopycinski served as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater, Texas State University, under head coach Ty Harrington during the 2011-2012 academic year. Texas State won the 2011 Southland Conference Championship and reached an NCAA Regional. In this position, he helped with the training and development of the catchers and hitters while also assisting with the Texas State Camps.
Director of Baseball Operations
Daniel Watson (Will Rice 2010) enters his fifth full season back at his alma mater. After originally joining the Rice Athletics Department in the Development Office, he has served as the Director of Baseball Operations since the spring of 2013.
As the director of operations for one of the nation’s winningest Division I baseball programs under head coach Wayne Graham, Watson administers the team’s yearly operating budget. He organizes the Owls’ travel and meals during the season, as well as all recruiting-related travel. Imagine the level of work required to help coordinate the team’s travel to and from Cuba in the winter of 2016.
His experience in Athletics Development has proved to be an asset in his work with the baseball program’s designated SIG, The RBI Club, where he has assisted with that group’s fund-raising and special events such as the Longball Classic and annual RBI Banquet.