Andrew McMinn Determined to Build a Winner in Utah


Andrew McMinn does not have to look far to realize how far he’s traveled in the past year.

“I’m looking out my window right now, and the mountains are right on top of us,” he said during an interview last month. “It’s just a hard place to beat as far as the scenery that you wake up to every day.”

The change in scenery stems from McMinn’s move to Salt Lake City after he was officially announced as the second head coach in Utah men’s lacrosse history on August 24. He succeeded Brian Holman, who helped guide the Utes from club to varsity status and compiled a 12-20 record over the past three seasons since its transition from MCLA to Division I.

The new era commences this Saturday when Utah hosts Denver at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Fans are encouraged to wear white, like the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains that are never far from view and figure prominently in the Utes’ Game 1 jersey reveal video. 

McMinn said he and his staff at Robert Morris couldn’t help themselves from enjoying the view for at least a few minutes last May when they played at Utah for the first time. The 16-12 victory, during which attackman Ryan Smith broke the program’s all-time goals record, was McMinn’s 76th win leading the Colonials. It was also his final one. A Pittsburgh native, he spent the past 15 years at Robert Morris, the last 10 as the head coach. The tenure included two NCAA tournament appearances along with the development of a distinct transition style that consistently helped the Colonials punch above their weight. Last season, Bobby Mo nearly toppled eventual NCAA champion Virginia but fell short in a 14-12 loss.

The Colonials played that game after a nearly seven-hour bus ride. Given Robert Morris’ location in Moon Township right outside of Pittsburgh, McMinn became no stranger to travel. The Colonials adopted a “Road Warrior” mentality as a way to adapt to long road trips. Last season, Utah embraced the same moniker and approach. The Utes’ slate this year features four homes games, including an April 16 date with Robert Morris, and eight away. It will require them to log approximately 14,000 miles.

“Being the furthest team out West, there’s an understanding that you are going to be hopping on planes and traveling a bit more,” McMinn said.

While the differences, especially the location, between the institutions are obvious (Robert Morris has an undergrad enrollment of 3,312 students compared to Utah’s 24,643), McMinn also spotted similarities — most importantly, the people. He learned that several of the programs’ cultural pillars even overlapped.

He joined the Colonials’ coaching staff as a volunteer assistant during the program’s second year of existence. The move to Utah felt like another opportunity to help an upstart team establish an identity and presence on a national level, but with the benefit of hindsight plus all that a Power 5 school can provide.

“We’re being given everything here from a resource standpoint and what's offered from the university academically and as a program that we have every reason to believe we can compete to be a top team in the country,” McMinn said. “That was certainly a big part of the conversations that I had throughout the interview process. We want to compete to be at the top. There’s that standard of excellence throughout the whole department.”

McMinn attended the Pac-12 football championship game in Las Vegas and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Both were firsts for the Utes. After the Utah men’s lacrosse team competed for its first three years at the D-I level as an independent, there’s also a clearer path to the NCAA tournament now as an affiliate member of the ASUN Conference. Utah and Air Force tied for the top spot in the ASUN preseason coaches’ poll. Robert Morris, Bellarmine, Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State round out the conference.

McMinn did initially reference his scouting report from last year’s Utah game “pretty extensively,” but at the same time kept an open mind. That approach translates to the Utes’ style of play. McMinn’s confident in running an up-tempo system but described the fall as a process of constantly evaluating and adjusting to make sure the current players are in the best positions to succeed.

Utah returns its top four scorers from last season, headlined by sophomores Tyler Bradbury and Jordan Hyde. McMinn cited depth as the offense’s biggest strength.

“We’re not just going to be running three attack,” he said. “We're going to be running a pretty large group, and with our midfielders, we honestly could be going, eight, nine, 10 guys [deep].”

On a team with 36 underclassmen, juniors Ryan Lemons, who started his collegiate career on the Utah club team in 2018, and Sammy Cambere, an All-ASUN preseason selection like Bradbury, provide a veteran presence on the defensive end. Sophomore Joey Boylston also returns as a starter down low.

“Those three guys are holding down the fort and really just playing at a high level,” McMinn said.

While there’s a long road ahead for the Utes, literally, last month McMinn was reminded of something he kept saying to assistant coach and defensive coordinator Sean Doyle during their walks to practice in the fall at 6:30 in the morning. Everywhere McMinn looked, it seemed there was another scenic vista. He sounded energized to embark on a new journey.

“We better never get to the point where we take this for granted.”

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