Wellner 'disappointed' about missing out on Navy lacrosse job

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Ryan Wellner is still a member of the Navy men’s lacrosse coaching staff. So it was no surprise he was asked by athletic director Chet Gladchuk to pick up his new boss at the airport.

Joe Amplo was announced as the eighth men’s lacrosse coach in Navy history on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Annapolis today to get started. Amplo comes to the Naval Academy after spending eight years and seven seasons as head coach at Marquette University.

That half-hour car ride from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to the Naval Academy could have been awkward since Wellner was also a candidate for the job. However, it was actually quite comfortable since Wellner and Amplo have known each other for years, dating back to their days as assistants at Stony Brook and Hofstra, respectively.

“I’ve known Coach Amplo for a long time and have a lot of respect for him,” Wellner told The Capital on Thursday. “Chet asked me to spend some time with Joe in order to discuss the ins and outs of the job here and update him on recruiting and other matters.”

Gladchuk fired previous head coach Rick Sowell on May 2 after eight years at the helm. Wellner was named the interim head coach the following day and has shepherded the program for the past month.

Wellner, defensive coordinator under Sowell throughout the latter’s Navy tenure, handled all the necessary duties during this time of the year. He personally made contact with every one of Navy’s current commitments, which includes players that just completed the prep school, graduating seniors and underclassmen.

Wellner and assistant Rob Camposa also went out on the road recruiting, hitting high school playoff games and state championships throughout the region.

“Ryan is doing an outstanding job of steering the ship and keeping things in order,” Gladchuk told The Capital earlier this month. “Ryan has been on top of everything and doing all that needs to be done.”

Wellner told Gladchuk from the outset he was interested in replacing Sowell as head coach and set about proving his capabilities while holding the interim tag.

“I think my interview probably started the Friday after Coach Sowell was let go and concluded on Monday afternoon prior to when Coach Amplo was offered the job. It was an ongoing interview and Chet and I spent a lot of time together,” Wellner said.

“I’m certainly appreciative of the opportunity Chet gave me and the chance to show him and the Naval Academy Athletic Association staff that I was the right man for the job,” Wellner added.

Wellner felt all along he had a legitimate shot at becoming the head coach and naturally believed he was the best choice. The 41-year-old Long Island native was granted a formal interview by Gladchuk and did not hide his disappointment about being passed over.

“Yes, I am disappointed. Absolutely I’m disappointed, but that’s how these things go. You either win them or you lose them,” he said.

On a positive note, Wellner spent one month performing the job of a Division I head coach and learned quite a bit that will benefit him if that opportunity ever presents itself.

“I 100 percent feel the last month or so was a huge help for me to experience first-hand the ins and outs of what head coaches deal with on a daily basis,” Wellner said. “I did not get that experience on the field, but definitely in the office in terms of recruiting and scheduling and all sorts of other stuff. I’m hopeful it will pay off somewhere down the line.”

During the time they spent together on Thursday, Amplo and Wellner did not discuss the potential makeup of the Navy coaching staff. Obviously, Amplo could choose to retain Wellner as defensive coordinator.

“We didn’t get into that and I’m not sure what Coach Amplo’s future plans are at all,” Wellner said. “I’m going to pursue some head coaching opportunities in the near term and I’m sure we’ll circle back at some point.”

Wellner is believed to be a leading candidate for the vacancy at Stony Brook, which is where he first began working for Sowell. Stony Brook went 32-14 overall and 15-1 in the America East Conference during the three seasons Wellner was on staff.

When Sowell departed for Navy, Stony Brook hired Jim Nagle away from Colgate as his replacement. Nagle was fired on May 14 after compiling a 68-59 record and leading the Sea Wolves to only one NCAA Tournament appearance in eight seasons.

In the meantime, Wellner will continue to represent Navy and is heading out on the road this weekend to do some recruiting.

“I’m still wearing the Navy colors. I think it’s important we have someone out there still pushing for prospects while Coach Amplo gets things settled here,” Wellner said.

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