Embry-Riddle is largely known for producing great aerospace engineers, aviation business professionals and pilots, but its athletics program is also racking up wins in the world of collegiate sports. Daytona Beach Campus alumni Nick Mingione (’00) and Ryan Ridder (’08) both recently earned positions as head coaches at NCAA Division I universities.
They carry to these posts lessons learned from their alma mater’s athletics program, and the Embry-Riddle vision of the well-rounded scholar-athlete. Grateful for those who believed in them, Mingione and Ridder now dedicate their lives to impacting others through sport.
Getting There First
Mingione recently wrapped up his first season as head coach of the University of Kentucky (UK) Wildcats’ baseball team. He started there in June 2016 and led the team to a 43-23 overall record — a record number of wins for any first-year UK head coach.
His team’s success earned him the Southeastern Conference Baseball Coach of the Year award after just 11 months on the job. He was also named the nationwide Perfect Game/Rawlings College Coach of the Year. As the season came to an end, Mingione took the team to the Super Regionals — another first for Wildcats baseball.
Racking up firsts has been a theme in Mingione’s career, starting when he played baseball at Embry-Riddle. Mingione’s pivotal “first” came in his junior year: “When I played at Embry-Riddle, they had never been to the College World Series before. In 1999, I was lucky to be on a team that did it. Ever since then, I’ve strived to do things that have never been done before.”
He began coaching shortly after graduating, helping Florida Gulf Coast University establish a team for its inaugural baseball season. He returned to serve as assistant baseball coach at Embry-Riddle for three seasons, culminating in a runner-up finish in the 2005 NAIA College World Series.
He left Embry-Riddle to work as assistant coach at UK for two years, then as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Mississippi State University for eight years. In 2013, he helped take the Bulldogs to the final round of the College World Series title against powerhouse UCLA.
Since Mingione joined UK in 2016, the team has raised its average GPA to 3.36 while also serving the community and enjoying its most successful season in Wildcats history.
His experience at Embry-Riddle helped drive that success. Embry-Riddle always emphasized the well-rounded player, he says. “My vision for the program here is to create an environment of family and of winning — in all phases, not just on the field. Our job as coaches, like Steve Ridder [head men’s basketball coach and former athletic director] always said, is to focus on the student, the person and the player.”
Mingione cites Embry-Riddle athletics icons Steve Ridder and current Director of Athletics John Phillips, along with his baseball coaches, Todd and Greg Guilliams, as foundational to his coaching career. Todd is now an assistant coach to Mingione at UK.
“Someone had to believe in me as a player. Someone had to believe in me down the road to get my coaching career started at a college,” Mingione says. “Without those opportunities, there’s no way I would be doing what I’m doing.”
Leadership in Faith
Ryan Ridder, one of Steve Ridder’s sons, spent his childhood steeped in the values of leadership, athletics and faith. Now, at age 32, he is head coach at Bethune-Cookman University (BCU), an NCAA Division I school.
“I grew up in a coaching household. It was a very special experience because of the emphasis my dad put on relationships and treating people the right way,” Ridder says. “When I started to think about my future, I knew I wanted to try and help young people. I decided I could use basketball as a vehicle to do that.”
After earning accolades as a basketball player at Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., he pulled up his roots to attend College of Wooster in Ohio. However, Ridder had coaching top-of-mind when he decided to transfer to Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach. “I wanted to come back and play for my dad and get a quality education from Embry-Riddle,” he says.
He, like Mingione, chose to major in aerospace studies to give range to his education. Meanwhile, he played Eagles basketball and served as team captain for two seasons, taking the team to the national tournament in his senior year. “Playing in a tournament game of that caliber with your seven or eight best friends, that’s a great feeling,” Ridder says.
Ridder worked as assistant coach at several different schools in the years following graduation, including one season at Embry-Riddle and several at Campbell University, an NCAA Division I school in North Carolina. Most recently, he spent four years as head coach of the Florida Daytona State College Falcons, where he led the team to four Mid-Florida Conference championships.
But it was his Christian faith that drove him to pursue an opening at BCU, where he’s just starting his first season as head basketball coach. “It’s a dream come true. It’s great to work in a private institution where you can share your faith proudly, learn and get better from the people around you who are in all different steps in their faith,” Ridder says.
“Everything we do is God first. We open and close in prayer; we retain the big picture. The whole idea of coaching and education is about trying to positively influence and help people,” Ridder says, crediting BCU’s Lynn Thompson, vice president of intercollegiate athletics, for setting the inspiring tone.
“I’ve been fortunate that a lot of people took a chance on me. I’m excited to see where this next journey leads.”