By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Ted Minnis wanted so much to win a Central Coast Section water polo title with his Castilleja team. He looked forward to being thrown in the water and letting the championship just soak in. For Minnis, this was an ultimate goal on the high school level.
It's a goal that will go unrealized for Minnis, who on Friday was named the new men's and women's water polo coach at Harvard University.
"This was just too good of an opportunity to pass up," Minnis said. "I am very excited for the opportunity of leading the Harvard water polo program. Being able to work at a great institution, with such a high caliber of scholar athletes, and a great athletic department is a logical extension of my work at Castilleja. It's a dream come true. I cannot wait to step on campus and begin this great journey."
While Minnis never got his elusive CCS title, his team earned something perhaps even more important when the Gators this past week were named one of 28 state academic team champions for the 2009-10 school year. The Castilleja water polo team had a combined grade point average of 3.79, the highest of any girls' team in the state.
"My girls are the state academic champs," Minnis said. "That's the last championship I won at Castilleja and, perhaps ironic, it's a scholastic championship which is what Harvard is all about."
"It's a great lead in to where he's going," said Jez McIntosh, Castilleja's Athletic Director. "It's further proof why Harvard would look at our coaching staff. It just speaks volumes of our program."
McIntosh will dearly miss Minnis, one of the more popular and likeable coaches anywhere. In addition to coaching water polo, he was Castilleja's middle school athletic director, assisted McIntosh with the basketball team and coached middle school water polo in the spring. This school year, Minnis also took over as interim AD while McIntosh was on sabbatical at Stanford, in the women's basketball office.
"He was here 24/7," McIntosh said. "Filling his shoes will be tough . . . While his loss will be felt most acutely by our polo players, everybody at Castilleja will miss his generous spirit, his humor and his kindness. But we also feel proud that one of our own has secured such an amazing opportunity."
"It's a great instituition with such a great tradition," Minnis said of Harvard. "I'm really happy. I'm excited to live in Boston, but I'm going to miss Castilleja. I'm going to be leaving a family behind, but I'll have another family waiting for me."
Making the move easier for Minnis will be the presence of former Castilleja athletes like Taylor Docter and Jane Alexander, starters on the Harvard volleyball and softball teams, respectively. He'll be coaching Palo Alto grad Lizzie Abbott on the girls' team and Menlo-Atherton grad Alexander Popp on the men's.
Minnis informed his Castilleja water polo team on Friday morning of his leave-taking, and came away with plenty of support from the players and families. Minnis also will leave behind his Stanford Water Polo Club players and coaches, who have become a big part of his life.
"That's been the luckiest part of my career, working with John Tanner, Susan Ortwein and Kyle Utsumi (at Stanford)," Minnis said. "To have a mentor like John Tanner has been great. I can't say enough of what he has taught me. To work with those three for 12 years in water polo, I've grown so much as a coach. I'm 200 percent better than I was when I got here."
Minnis just completed his 11th year at Castilleja. He took over a floundering water polo program in 1999 and endured plenty of tough seasons before building the program into the respected entity that it is today. His team reached the CCS finals in 2008 while fashioning a 19-10 record, losing to top-seeded Sacred Heart Prep in the title match. It was Castilleja's first appearance in the CCS finals since 1997.
Minnis vowed to be back. While the Gators were eliminated in the semifinals this past season and finished 18-10, the program was on very solid ground.
"I've always said that I've run my high school program like a college program," said Minnis, who last weekend coached the Stanford 20-over and 20-under women's water polo teams to qualifying berths for this month's national championships.
Minnis will head back to Harvard in a few weeks, ending a very successful era at Castilleja. He, of course, will miss McIntosh.
"That's the sad part about this," Minnis said, "leaving Jez. We've been together for 11 years. He's just always been there for me. He gave me all the jobs here and was always supportive. That's the sad thing, leaving Castilleja. But, I'm starting a new chapter in my career and I'm ready for the challenge."
Minnis will make his debut on the Harvard pool deck on Sept. 4 when the Crimson men's team plays at MIT.
The hiring of Minnis was announced Friday morning by Harvard Director of Athletics Bob Scalise. Minnis will serve as the 10th coach in both programs' history.
"We are please that Ted will be joining our staff to coach our men's and women's water polo teams," Scalise said. "We look forward to working with Ted to move our water polo programs forward in their quest to be one of the top teams in the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
"After reviewing dozens of qualified candidates I feel confident we hired the best person for the position," Scalise added. "His philosophy matches the Department of Athletics Mission Statement as he will serve as a positive role model for our student-athletes in and out of the pool. Ted is a passionate, dedicated leader who will thrive at the collegiate level."
Minnis is a veteran coach at the Stanford Water Polo Club. During his 12 years of service, he has won two Junior Olympic bronze medals, a U.S. Club Championship and finished among the top 10 at various national tournaments numerous times.
For the last three years, Minnis has served as the head coach for the Olympic Development Program Pacific Zone and in 2009 worked with the National Youth Team staff. Most recently, his teams picked up a pair of silver medals at the 16 and Under Olympic Development Regional Championship and Zone Championship.
In 2007, Minnis was named the USA Water Polo Development Coach of the Year and in 2005 and 2007 was a Positive Coaching Alliance finalist for coach of the year.