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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

‘It still seems surreal’: Sean Behan returns to Utica as new head lacrosse coach

Sean Behan was named Utica’s new men’s lacrosse head coach on Sept. 14. Courtesy of Sean Behan X account

Sean Behan, Utica University’s new head lacrosse coach, has a long history with the sport. He was introduced to lacrosse at a young age while growing up in Syracuse and began playing in third grade after watching his older cousin play at West Genesee High School, one of the powerhouse teams in the area.

Behan played a lot of sports growing up but lacrosse always stuck with him more than anything else. 

“Lacrosse was always a little bit different and it was always the one I looked forward to,” Behan said.

He attended Jamesville-Dewitt High School, where he continued his lacrosse career. At that time, the team was one of the best programs in the nation, going 44-0 and winning back-to-back New York State championships during his two years on the varsity team. 

“A lot of guys that I played with were blue chip, Syracuse recruits… and it really paved the way for me to be able to play at the next level,” he said.

His playing days continued at Utica College. From day one he was slotted into the lineup as a long-stick midfielder under Coach Mike Parnell. Behan described himself as a “Swiss Army Knife player” who prided himself on always being available and able to do anything his coaches asked him. In his four years at Utica, Behan never missed a game and was a key member of the man-down defensive unit.

After graduating from Utica with a criminal justice degree, he stayed on as an assistant coach for the Pioneers. Behan knew he was interested in getting his master’s degree and looked into coaching as a senior, but a graduate assistant position opened up during his senior year. Behan leaped at the opportunity to continue working with Utica Lacrosse and stayed with the team for four more years.

“When the opportunity to get into college coaching presented itself, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor the way that those coaches in the past had treated me and done for me,” he said. 

Skidmore College offered him the lead assistant coach position and he worked there from 2019 to 2020, where he was able to gain different perspectives on how to recruit and coach a team. Behan said the experience was beneficial and caused him to grow as a coach.

“You can be in it for five years, you can be in it for 30 years and you can always pick up something new,” he said. 

Behan used his new perspective to transition into being a head coach at Medaille University in 2021, where some difficulties were thrown his way. Medaille was the smallest team that he had ever been a part of, and he also had to work through an entire COVID season where difficulties were magnified. Not only were there more protocols to follow to operate but they also were not allowed to have fans in attendance for any of the home games.

However, it was still his first experience as a head coach at any level. The time spent as the true leader of a program allowed him to grow as a coach and become more prepared for becoming a head coach once again in the future.

After Medaille, Behan spent a brief time at the Division II level as the defensive coordinator at the College of Saint Rose. This stint gave him more experience working with high-level players since he had worked at the Division III level prior. 

Seeing how the higher level operated was the final piece he needed to return to Utica, where Behan now serves as the head coach for the Pioneers. 

“With here it’s different,” Behan said. “This is where it all started for me… this is where I got my foot in the door with college coaching… it’s a little bit more meaningful.”

Behan used an endless amount of words to describe how important it was for him to return to Utica as head lacrosse coach. It was a dream come true for the Syracuse native and Utica College alumni to stay close to home and coach for the team that gave him his start while continuing the rich tradition of lacrosse that has existed on campus.

“The biggest thing that our tradition boils down to is integrity,” Behan said. 

When Behan returned to Utica he was thrilled to see the tradition had continued to live on. While he was at Utica, he and the team prided themselves on doing everything the right way, regardless of if anyone was watching. He said the lacrosse team would take care of their academics, they would act the right way on the field and they would always put in the extra work outside of practice.

Even today, Behan said, the team still enforces this tradition that Behan was able to build and he looks to continue to see it live on for years to come as Utica’s head coach.

“It still seems surreal,” Behan said. “But I’m looking forward to being here for a very long time and continuing to have a positive impact on not just the lacrosse program but Utica University as a whole.”

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