As unyielding as the pressure to win can be, Goucher athletic director Andrew Wu is willing to give new men’s lacrosse coach Kyle Hannan a window of about two to three years to get the Division III program back on its feet.
But Hannan, whose return to the Gophers after a 10-year hiatus was announced July 14, has other ideas.
“I’m not going into this thing saying, ‘Well, I’ve got three years, and then we’ll see what happens,’” he said Wednesday. “I’m looking for immediate buy-in and excitement and belief. I don’t think it’s a three- to five-year process. I think it starts from Day 1, and change is going to happen, and it’s going to be positive, and we’re going to be successful before three years’ time. I truly believe that.”
Hannan’s vision and optimism have impressed Wu.
“I think it is [a lot of pressure], and I think it is pressure that he welcomes,” Wu said. “He’s probably going to put more pressure on himself than anyone externally or internally can possibly put on him. During the interview process, it was all he talked about. ‘I want to see this program back on its feet.’”
That timetable might be the only area where Hannan and Wu differ. What they both agree on is that Hannan, the architect of Goucher’s march to Landmark Conference championships in 2010 and 2012 and its highest national ranking at No. 10 in 2012, is the right person to help the program regain relevance.
“It was kind of an opportunity to refresh the program, especially with someone who has done it at Goucher before and has won conference championships and gotten us to the national rankings,” Wu said.
Hannan has been a lacrosse lifer. After starting all four years as a midfielder at Salisbury before graduating in 1986, he served as an assistant with the Sea Gulls, Bates and Hobart before becoming coach at Virginia Wesleyan (1993 to 1998) and Colorado College (1998 to 2000).
In his 12-year tenure with the Gophers, Hannan became the school’s all-time winningest coach courtesy of a 129-71 record that included a 64-22 mark from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, he guided that squad over Washington College for the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory in its 21-year history before falling in the quarterfinals to eventual national champion Salisbury.
That success prompted Mercer, a Division I program, to lure Hannan away from Goucher. In just his second season with the Bears, Hannan helped them capture a share of the Atlantic Sun regular-season title and earned the conference’s Coach of the Year award.
After stepping down on Aug. 6, 2020, Hannan joined Team 24/7 in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the lacrosse club’s president. But Hannan soon discovered he missed coaching too much.
“To be honest, it was about three months into that when I realized, ‘I’m a college lacrosse coach. That’s who I am,’” he said. “I didn’t know until I stepped away from it after about 30 years. So I got back into the game.”
Hannan became a senior advisor at Lenoir-Rhyne, which enjoyed its best season in 2021 and lost to Le Moyne in the NCAA Division II championship final. He then served as associate head coach at Division II Queens.
When Gophers coach Brian Kelly informed Wu in early June of his decision to step down after a 55-58 record in eight years, Wu said he heard the chatter from alumni, boosters and fans to reach out to Hannan. After interviewing Hannan and two other finalists, Wu was sold.
“I think right off the bat, you can see why he had the success he had at Goucher very quickly once you start talking to him,” said Wu, who pointed to Hannan’s ability to connect with former players. “The competitiveness comes through, the passion.”
Hannan has yet to meet the players and declined to say whether wholesale changes within the program are necessary. He said his primary concern is getting the players to buy into his vision and methods.
“I’m not really wrapped up with the wins and losses,” he said. “I’m confident that we’re going to build a really strong culture, and that’s going to take care of itself. If you chase wins, you’re in trouble. If you chase culture and do things right and make it a positive experience, the wins come. If you put the wins first, I think you spin your wheels a little bit.”
Wu emphasized that he doesn’t expect Hannan to turn the Gophers into immediate contenders who can challenge Catholic or Elizabethtown, which have combined to win the last seven Landmark Conference crowns. But Wu said the buzz around the hiring is already building.
“The alums are obviously super pumped up, and I think the students on the team are also pretty pumped up because they know the name and they know who he is and they know what he accomplished,” he said.
Hannan admitted that he will “have chills” the first time he puts on the team apparel for the players’ first fall ball session. But he also understands that the spotlight on him might be unrelenting.
“Leaders need to lead, and that’s my mindset going in,” he said. “I’m going to rest on my experience, and I’m going to do the best job I can to lead this team from Day 1.”