Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Paul Romanczuk’s high school years took him from Malvern Prep to Archbishop Carroll. Twenty-some years later, he’s making that same journey as a coach, albeit in the opposite direction.
The Carroll grad, who coached at his alma mater for a successful 15-year-run between 2003-04 and 2017-18 before stepping aside to focus on his family, will be back on the sidelines this winter. Malvern Prep officially announced Romanczuk’s hiring Monday afternoon, and the former Penn standout will take the reins of a program that’s already one of the most competitive in the Inter-Ac.
Paul Romanczuk (above) will be back on the sidelines this winter after three seasons off. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I have a love for coaching basketball and being around the game and mentorship as far as young high school athletes,” Romanczuk said, “and when the Malvern job opened up, I thought this could be a great fit. And I was fortunate that they tabbed me as the guy.”
As for his kids — Cooper (a rising 8th grader), Collin (7th) and Riley (4th)?
“They’ve had enough of me now,” Romanczuk laughed. “They don’t want any more time with daddy, they want me away, they want me coaching again.”
Okay, but seriously.
“That was the dilemma,” he said. “I was missing Little League games and I was missing third and fourth-grade basketball games, and I thought I’d be okay with missing it, and I wasn’t. It hurt me to miss some of that stuff.
“I stepped away and really enjoyed coaching some of those youth teams, and being at all the games, and being the dad on the sidelines and in the outfield for baseball games. I got to be a little league coach for a few years — and that window’s only open for a few years, and then it starts closing pretty quickly.”
With his kids getting out of their childhood activities, the time seemed right for Romanczuk to get back in. When the only other high school with which he had in-depth knowledge and experience suddenly had an opening for a boys’ basketball coach (after John Harmatuk took the same position at the Phelps School), Romanczuk was quickly intrigued.
He’d attended the Main Line independent Catholic school, one of six in the high-academic Inter-Ac League, as a 9th and 10th grader back from 1991-93, leaving for Archbishop Carroll as a junior to play for head coach Tom Ingelsby. After starring for the Patriots for two years, the 6-8 forward went on to play 108 games in a Penn uniform, averaging 10.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg for his career and finishing with 1,179 points as a Quaker.
Romanczuk found his way back to Carroll in the early 2000s, serving as a varsity assistant coach for one year before elevating to the main gig for the 2003-04 season. Five years later, the Catholic League having joined the PIAA, he guided Carroll to the PIAA Class 3A championship, becoming the first PCL coach to win it all.
In the years since, he’s coached numerous players who’ve gone on to star at Division I schools and beyond, including Derrick Jones Jr. of the Portland Trail Blazers, as well as recent St. Joe’s standout Ryan Daly and his brother Colin Daly (West Chester), Miami assistant D.J. Irving (Boston U), Juan’ya Green (Niagara/Hofstra), Ernest Aflakpui (Temple), Josh Sharkey (Samford), and more.
In total, he was 283-130 (.685) overall, with a 141-65 (.684) record in PCL play.
“He’s as good as they come, he’s as good of a person as there is,” said Ryan Daly, who played for Romanczuk from 2013-16 after moving down from State College. “He put up with a lot of stuff behind the scenes at Carroll that no one really knows about, and he never really budged an inch.
“He’s an elite coach — I’m telling you, he’s elite, and he’s a very good person on top of that.”
Irving concurred: “A lot of the career decisions I’ve made over the years, he’s been someone I heavily relied on for advice,” he texted. “One of the first coaches I ever had that really challenged me to get to a level I didn’t know I could get to. Because of his coaching style, I was ready from day one when I stepped on BU’s campus.”
Romanczuk said there were still a few familiar faces from his days at Malvern Prep, including Leo Kindon, his freshman basketball coach, who’s still working at the school as a teacher, along with several others. The 179-year-old’s school, which moved to its current location in the early 1920s, hasn’t entirely changed since Romanczuk roamed its halls as a teen, but there’s been quite a few upgrades, including the main gym he’ll be coaching in.
“It still has a lot of the same character, some of the same older buildings that it had walking through campus,” Romanczuk said, “but they’ve done a lot on that campus that makes it look like a whole different place.”
Harmatuk, who’d moved up from Texas with his family in 2013 and then soon after took the Malvern job, was 119-78 (.604) over his eight seasons, topping out with a 27-5 season in 2019-20, going an unbeaten 10-0 to claim the Inter-Ac title behind the backcourt of Deuce Turner (Bucknell), Rahdir Hicks (Towson) and multi-sport stud Lonnie White, who’s committed to Penn State for football but was also just drafted in the second round of the MLB draft.
The returning Friars from last year’s COVID-ravaged season include senior big man Tyler Lauder, senior guard SJ Hutchinson and a promising rising sophomore guard in Ryan Williams, among others.
“The first thing I want to do is connect with the current players and their parents and I’ll probably tonight reach out to them and hopefully get them up to an open gym or two next week and just start to connect with them a little bit,” Romanczuk said. “What you need to do to get the best out of players is to form trust. And trust doesn’t come right away, you need time to build that trust.
“I think there needs to be an expectation of, here’s how we work, that we’re not going to settle for anything less than hard work and trying to do our best within the Inter-Ac, and trying to be one of the better programs in the area,” he continued. “That’s got to be a goal of ours. I also want them to be great ambassadors for Malvern Prep, I want them to be great teammates for each other. That’s what the first few steps are going to be, getting this team connected together, as much as we can.”
Putting together a coaching staff will be another early priority; Romanczuk said he’ll have a Malvern presence on the bench, but he’d have to figure out exactly how many spots were available before he knew exactly what that staff would look like. Then the focus turns to winning more Inter-Ac titles as well as the Pennsylvania Independent School (PAISAA) tournament championships, though the latter means hanging with the likes of Westtown, Perkiomen, and more.
An accountant by day, Romanczuk has always been one of the more thoughtful coaches around when it comes to his approach with the media, and that carries over from his duties as a coach. While his Carroll teams always had plenty of talent, they were also always well-coached, a necessity to hang with the likes of Carl Arrigale’s Neumann-Goretti squads and Chris McNesby’s Roman teams, along with the rise of John Mosco’s Archbishop Wood groups and others.
“In terms of preparation for opponents,” Daly said, “I’ve been with three staffs in college, and if he’s not the best, he’s definitely 1A and 1B.”
“I love that he thinks that about me, because my goal is to prepare for the next opponent, to prepare them for college, to prepare them for life,” Romanczuk said. “That’s what I believe the high school coach should be about: preparing.”