For the first time since 2011, the Navy Midshipmen are in the market for a new coach. Rick Sowell went 54-56 in eight seasons as the Mids head boss, making one NCAA Tournament appearance, reaching the quarterfinals in the 2016. After a disappointing 6-7 campaign in 2019, the change was made. Navy is a job steeped in tradition, having won 17 pre-NCAA era championships, and then reaching seven of the first 11 Final Fours in NCAA Tournament history. It plays in a tremendous stadium that draws some of the best crowds in Division I. However the program has been less than successful recently, making only one NCAA Tournament appearance this decade, and winning just six NCAA Tournament games in the last 30 years. There are also the obvious recruiting difficulties that come with being a service academy.
This is still a good job though, and so the question is: Who will be the next boss for the Midshipmen? Here are some possible candidates, ranging from favorites and more obvious names, to potential surprises.
JL Reppert, Maryland Offensive Coordinator
- The current offensive coordinator of the Maryland Terrapins, Reppert’s candidacy is obvious. He both played at Navy from 1996-1999, and then coached at Navy as well, from 2012-2014, before becoming part of John Tillman’s staff in 2015. The Terps offense, infamous for it’s stallball-oriented style of play and frequent slumps during NCAA Championship games in the early years of John Tillman’s tenure, has become a powerhouse under Reppert. From 2011-2014, Maryland only twice topped 11 goals per game in a season, and failed to score 10 goals in 37% of their games. In the year prior to Reppert taking over they ranked 17th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. After ranking 17th again in 2015, Maryland ranked 6th, 3rd, and 1st in the country in Offensive Efficiency from 2016-2018, and in 2019 is once again in the Top 10. He’s coached a Tewaaraton Award winner in Matt Rambo, a finalist in Connor Kelly, and 9 All-Americans, likely to be more once this year’s list is revealed.
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 8/10
Anthony Gilardi, Towson Offensive Coordinator
- Another former Navy assistant, Gilardi served as the offensive coordinator in Annapolis for two years from 2009-10, before taking over at Towson where he’s been ever since. The Tigers have had great success in Gilardi’s time as OC, reaching five NCAA Tournaments, including a Quarterfinal in 2016 and the Final Four in 2017. Gilardi’s mentored a 41 goal scorer and Honorable Mention All-American Thomas Denapoli in 2013, CAA Co-Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American Ryan Drenner in 2016 and then again an HM AA in 2017, and another Honorable Mention All-American in 2017 in Mike Lynch. Towson’s offense in 2018 hit its peak under Gilardi, scoring an average of 12.7 goals per game, good for 17th in the nation, and has a likely All-American in attackmen Brendan Sunday.
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 7/10
Kevin Warne, Georgetown Head Coach
- Our first sitting head coach on the list, Warne’s stock has surged the last two seasons. After a rocky first five years with the Hoyas, where he went 26-47 and had just one winning season, Warne’s revamped Georgetown the last two years, winning two consecutive Big East titles, making back to back trips to the NCAA Tournament, and going an impressive 25-8, including twice knocking off Bill Tierney and Denver in the Big East Championship Game, establishing themselves as the new power in the conference. Prior to his taking over the Hoyas, Warne had great success as an assistant at Maryland, helping the Terps become a defensive powerhouse and making consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship Game in 2011 and 2012. With his ties to the state as an assistant at Maryland and UMBC and his recent success with the Hoyas, you’d expect Warne to be on Navy’s shortlist. However, he currently has a good thing going at Georgetown, a job you could argue he is of equal or better stature than Navy, so it’s no guarantee he’d jump at the opening.
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 6.5/10
Ryan Wellner, Navy Associate Head Coach
- If the Mids strike out on several bigger names or maybe decide that there are benefits in continuity for recruiting purposes, then it would not be a surprise at all to see Wellner be considered for the job. Wellner has been at Navy since 2012, as he followed Rick Sowell from Stony Brook. Working with the Midshipmen’s defense, he’s led them to ranks of 14th in the country in Goals Against in 2012, 20th in 2014, 13th in 2015, 2nd in 2016, and 15th in 2018. There were five All-American selections for Navy players during Wellner’s time as an assistant, three times for Chris Fennell and twice for Matt Rees. Wellner also serves as Navy’s recruiting coordinator. However, you do wonder whether it would be the most popular choice to make a member of the current staff that had such a mediocre tenure the man tasked with turning around the program’s fortunes
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 6/10
Bobby Benson, Johns Hopkins Offensive Coordinator
- Benson has been the longtime OC for the Blue Jays, serving in that capacity since 2007. He helped them to a national title that first year, and then ranks of 12th, 8th, and 11th in scoring offense in 2008, 2009, and 2011 as the Blue Jays ran a predominantly slowed down, midfield dodging driven offense, producing All-Americans such as Paul Rabil, Greg Peyser, and Kevin Huntley. After struggles with offensive production in 2012 and 2013, Benson rebooted the offense ahead of the 2014 season, to be more ball-movement oriented and centered on the Stanwick’s success in the two-man game, and it paid dividends, as the Blue Jays ranked 11th in the country in scoring offense that season, 9th in 2015 as they made the Final Four, 13th in 2016, and 12th in 2018. They also ranked Top 10 in Offensive Efficiency every single season from 2014-2018; 10th in 2014, 2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2016, 9th in 2017, and 3rd in 2018. He’s coached 36 All-Americans since joining the staff in 2007.
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 5.5/10
Mike Abbott, Penn Offensive Coordinator
- Likely to be one of the hot new coaching names this offseason, Abbott has done a tremendous job in his sole year as the Quakers OC, taking an offense that averaged just nine goals per game in 2018, and improving them by a whopping six goals this season, now averaging 15 a game and ranking 2nd in the country in scoring offense. Prior to his time at Penn he was the offensive coordinator for seven seasons at Colgate, where he coached Peter Baum to a Tewaaraton Award win in 2012; the #2 scoring offense the country that season, the #25 scoring offense in 2015, and another Top 10 Unit in 2018, ranking 9th with 11.9 goals per game. Offensive struggles were often the theme for Navy during Sowell’s tenure, and hiring one of the best offensive minds in the sport could be the right cure for that ailment.
- Likelihood of being next Navy HC: 5.5/10