Former Iona coach, Kevin Willard has been named the head coach of the Seton Hall Pirates men's basketball program. A formal press conference will take place on Wednesday.
From Jerry Carino:
Iona coach Kevin Willard will be the next men's basketball coach at Seton Hall University, according to souces close to the process. While we've heard Seton Hall is interested in sitting down with Cornell's Steve Donahue and NBA assistant/former Pirate great Adrian Griffin, word is that Hall brass cut things short after the McCaffery snub and went to Willard, who by all accounts had a superb interview with Pat Hobbs last week.
Hopefully, we'll be welcoming back former Pirate and fan favorite, Shaheen Holloway, who has served as Willard's primary assistant and recruiter at Iona. Keep in mind, Iona will begin their coaching hunt immediately, will 'Sha be a candidate?
- 45-49 in his three year tenure at Iona.
- During his first year as a head coach - and first in New Rochelle - the Gaels finished with 10 more victories than the previous year, one of the top turnarounds in NCAA Div. I in 2007-08. He instilled his foundation of up tempo, aggressive play with an emphasis on having fun playing the game of basketball to his young team. At 33, Willard is one of the youngest coaches in Division I. In 2008-09, his squad boasted one of the youngest lineups in the nation with eight freshmen and three sophomores.
- Mentored by college coaching legend Rick Pitino at Louisville, Willard is the latest former Pitino assistant to join the head coaching ranks; a list that includes several current NCAA head coaches. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, and Holy Cross’ Sean Kearney are among the many successful members of the Pitino coaching tree.
- In addition to Pitino, Willard credits his father Ralph as one of his coaching influences. He will look to continue the up-tempo style, pressure defense, and strong work ethic that helped Louisville’s return to national prominence during his six seasons at the University.
- At Louisville, Willard was responsible for assisting with Louisville’s game preparations, scouting and preparing game plans to aid the Cardinals in the attack of their opposition. He also served as chief recruiting coordinator.
During his tenure, Louisville was ranked in the Top 25 for five seasons and reached the post season in each of his six years. The squad reached the NCAA Tournament on four occasions including a visit to the 2005 Final Four, the first time in 19 years that the Cardinals had advanced that deep into the post season. In his six seasons at Louisville, the Cardinals posted a phenomenal 142-58 record averaging nearly 24 wins per season.
- Prior to Louisville, Willard worked with Pitino as a coaching associate with the Boston Celtics for four years. His duties with the Celtics included game and practice preparation, scouting and assisting the coaching staff in all basketball matters. He provided advance scouting, video tape breakdowns and assisted with individual workouts prior to games.
Willard, 34, was a collegiate basketball point guard, playing his last three years at Pittsburgh. He earned BIG EAST All-Academic honors while appearing in 75 games for the Panthers.
The Gaels were picked to finish ninth in the 10-team MAAC this season in the coaches preseason poll, but surprised many by finishing third while holding second place for a good portion of the season. What was impressive about Iona's turnaround this season under Willard is that he did it with a roster built primarily with freshmen and sophomores. Willard was named MAAC Coach of the Year by the conference for his work this season.
Willard is considered to be low-key but intense by those who know him. Seton Hall didn't want another coach as excitable and high-strung as Gonzalez, according to sources close to the search. Willard had one technical foul last season, and the Gaels had three as a team. By comparison, Robert Morris coach Mike Rice, who also interviewed for the position, had two Ts and his team racked up nine. Gonzalez had seven technicals last season and the Pirates had 15 overall.
Update 3:37PM: Adam Zagoria, Zagsblog:
The new coach will reportedly make between $500,000 and $550,000 per year. Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez was fired last week after four tumultuous seasons. Willard, 34, was named the 2010 MAAC Coach of the Year after leading the Gaels to a 21-9 record and a 12-3 mark in the league.
WOW. If true, Seton Hall REALLY opened up the pocket book! Early reports stated they would stay around 500K, before moving into the 700-800K range. If Willard is making $1M per year, you'd have to wonder if McCaffery simply wanted nothing to do with the program, as it's believed that kind of money would have landed Fran.
Update: Zags tweets:
Kevin Willard's annual compensation at Seton Hall package is "roughly" $1 million for 5 years,with a base salary in excess of $500,000
Well, according to Zags, Willard was indeed the first choice, not McCaffery:
"Kevin Willard was the first choice," a Seton Hall source said. "He jumped right to the front after our first interview. After we met Kevin, we were convinced that he was the right person for the job. When we balanced everything and all the needs that Seton Hall had, Kevin rose right to the top."
..Stay tuned to Gonzo Ball for running updates on the Kevin Willard signing throughout the afternoon.