Maryland hires Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard as new Men’s Basketball Coach

Kevin Willard as Seton Hall coach in 2017. By Vincent Carchietta – https www.courier-journal.com, https commons.wikimedia.org

3/21/2022

COLLEGE PARK, MD –Kevin Willard has been named the new head coach of the Maryland Men’s Basketball program as announced by Damon Evans, Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics on Monday. Willard recently coached Seton Hall to its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last six events that were played. Having won a regular-season conference championship, conference tournament championship and earning conference coach of the year, Willard is one of 10 active head coaches in the Power 6 conferences to achieve each of the accomplishments in the last six seasons. 

 He has been one of the winningest coaches in terms of NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) Quad 1 victories over the last four seasons. He also has the most non-conference wins of any coach in the nation against Big Ten teams since 2014-15. 

In his career as a head coach, his teams have 28 wins over Associated Press Top-25 teams including 18 wins over Top-15 teams, 14 wins over Top-10 teams and six wins over Top-5 teams. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin to the Terrapin family,” said Damon Evans, Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics. “We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way. Known for his gritty, hard-working teams, Kevin has had tremendous success, winning conference championships and leading his teams to NCAA Tournaments. He has made a habit of scheduling challenging opponents and winning in those games as evidenced by his record against Big Ten teams in recent years. He has familiarity with the region, being a native New Yorker and having spent much of his life in the Northeast corridor. We welcome Kevin, his wife Julie, and their sons Colin and Chase to the Maryland family and we look forward to the next great chapter in Terrapin basketball history.”

“On behalf of the entire University of Maryland community, it is my honor to welcome Coach Kevin Willard and his family to College Park,” said Darryll J. Pines, President of the University of Maryland. “As a leader, coach, mentor, and teacher, Coach Willard is a tremendous choice to lead our men’s basketball program into its next era of distinction.”

“Growing up and coaching in the region, I have always admired Maryland basketball. Being named head coach of one of the nation’s premier basketball programs is a tremendous honor,” said Willard. “Thank you to President Pines and Damon Evans for trusting me to energize this proud program as we look to galvanize our passionate fanbase with a gritty, hard-working style of basketball. Having coached against Maryland several times and at XFINITY Center, I know how Terp fans feel about this team. I embrace the high expectations. Skill development and a dedication to academic success will be cornerstones of our program and I can promise Terp Nation we will work to make them proud of this basketball team as we build winners on the court and in the classroom. Julie and our boys are excited to join the Terrapin family.”

Willard served as the head coach at Seton Hall from 2010-22 where he helped the Pirates to the 2020 Big East Regular Season Championship and the 2016 Big East Tournament Championship. He coached the Pirates to five NCAA berths and what would have been six in the last seven seasons when you include the COVID-shortened season, when Seton Hall was assured of a berth in the tournament after winning the Big East title in 2020. 

His teams have posted .500 or better records in the last nine consecutive seasons. He has a 225-161 overall record at Seton Hall in 12 seasons. He is second all-time in victories (225) in Seton Hall basketball history and has the most wins in conference play in program history (110). He is also the 11th all-time winningest coach in Big East history, dating to the conference’s inception in 1979. Including three seasons as the head coach Iona, Willard’s career record is 270-210.

The past season, Willard led Seton Hall to a 21-11 overall record and an 11-8 mark in conference play. That included wins over No. 4 Michigan and No. 7 Texas as part of six NET Quad 1 victories. 

He has claimed prestigious coaching honors including the USBWA District II Coach of the Year in 2020, the NABC District 5 Coach of the Year in 2019, the Peter A. Carlesimo Metropolitan Writers Coach of the Year in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and Big East Coach of the Year in 2016. He was also named one of Forbes Top 10 NCAA Basketball Coaches for the Next 10 Years in 2017. His teams won the prestigious NABC Team Academic Excellence Award for five straight years (2016-20) and earned three NCAA Academic Progress Rate Public Recognition Awards. 

With Seton Hall, he has posted seven 20-win seasons with six coming in the last seven years. He also finished in the top-four in the Big East on six occasions. In 2018, he led the Pirates to their first victory in an NCAA Tournament since 2004. 
His teams at Seton Hall have been ranked in the Top 25 in five of the last eight seasons with a high ranking of No. 8 in the 2019-20 season. This past season the Pirates were ranked as high as No. 15 and spent eight weeks in the polls. 
Willard’s Seton Hall teams have posted 26 Quad 1 wins over the last four seasons since the NET tool started being used by the NCAA. The 26 Q1 wins are among the Top 15 among all coaches in the nation since the 2018-19 season. 

His teams have also posted an 11-5 record against Big Ten teams over the last eight seasons, which includes wins over Maryland in 2018 and 2019. Willard’s teams also won road games at Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Rutgers and beat Indiana at home. Willard has the most non-conference wins over Big Ten teams of any coach since 2014-15. 

The Pirates have 82 combined wins between the Big East regular-season and postseason, second only to Villanova in the conference since the 2015-16 season. 

Willard coached the Big East Player of the Year in two of the last three years in Myles Powell (2020) and Sandro Mamukelashvili  (2021). He mentored two of the last five Big East Most Improved Players of the Year in Powell (2018) and Romaro Gill (2020). He coached the Big East Tournament MVP, Isaiah Whitehead (2016); the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Fuquan Edwin (2014) and Gill (2020); the Big East Rookie of the Year, Angel Delgado (2015) and the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Michael Nzei (2019) and Ike Obiagu (2021). 

Whitehead, Delgado, Powell and Mamukelashvili all earned All-American honors and Consensus First-Team All-Big East honors, and all in the last seven years. All four went on to play in the NBA with Powell playing for the Philadelphia 76ers this season and Mamukelashvili playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Powell was Seton Hall’s first Consensus First-Team All-American since 1953. This past season, Jared Rhoden was named to the All-Big East First Team marking the sixth time in seven years that Willard coached a first-team all-conference honoree. Overall, he mentored 15 All-Big East selections and three Big East All-Rookie Team honorees. 

Making a huge emphasis on effort in the classroom, Willard’s student-athletes combined for 72 BIG EAST All-Academic team selections, and the program has boasted a perfect single-year academic progress rate in six of the nine NCAA reports since he became head coach as well as perfect multi-year APR scores in 2016 and 2017. The NCAA has also recognized Seton Hall with NCAA APR Public Recognition awards for boasting an APR in the top 10 percent in the country three consecutive years from 2015-17. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) has given the program the Team Academic Excellence Award five consecutive years from 2016-20 for finishing the academic year with a grade point average above 3.0. 

Willard has proven to be a strong evaluator and recruiter of talent, as he brought in a consensus top-15 national recruiting class in 2014, led by Whitehead, the program’s first McDonald’s All-American since 2001 and just the fifth all-time. His 2021-22 recruiting class was also rated in the top 25 by 247Sports. 

The 2020-21 season marked Seton Hall and Willard’s sixth consecutive top-four finish in the Big East Conference, one of the best basketball conferences in the country. Only Villanova also completed six straight top-four finishes in the same span. 
Willard was named head coach of the Seton Hall men’s basketball program on March 29, 2010. He became the 19th head coach in Seton Hall history joining the Pirates after three years serving as the head coach at Iona. In 2007, he had inherited a Gaels team that had won just two games the prior season. In his first year at the helm, the Gaels had a 10-win improvement, ranking as one of the top turnarounds in NCAA Div. I. Then in year three in 2009-10, Willard guided Iona to a 21-10 overall record, and he was named MAAC Coach of the Year.

Prior to the start of his career as a head coach, Willard was an assistant and associate head coach for six years at Louisville, where he was mentored by Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino. Willard also credits his father, Ralph, as one of his coaching influences. Ralph Willard enjoyed a successful 19-year run as the head coach at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross, winning 336 games and advancing to six NCAA Tournaments.

At Louisville, Willard was responsible for assisting with the Cardinals’ game preparations, scouting and preparing game plans. He also served as chief recruiting coordinator. During his tenure, Louisville was ranked in the Top 25 for five seasons and reached the postseason 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 postseason. 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 facets of basketball operations. He also provided advance scouting, videotape breakdowns and assisted with individual workouts prior to games.

A basketball lifer, Willard played point guard on the Division I level for four years; the last three coming at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned Big East All-Academic honors while appearing in 60 games for the Panthers. He spent his freshman season at Western Kentucky, where he played in the backcourt and sank over 40 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.

Willard hails from New York and was born in Huntington on Long Island, but played his high school basketball at Bowling Green High School (Ky.) while his father was the head coach at Western Kentucky. He earned second-team All-State honors as a senior and helped his team to a combined 76-15 record in his final three prep seasons.

Willard is married to the former Julie Wagner and they have two sons, Colin, who was born in August 2006 and Chase born in June 2008.

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