SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Kevin Willard, has been named the new head coach of the Seton Hall men's basketball program, it was announced Monday by Patrick Hobbs, Seton Hall Dean of the Law School, who has been overseeing the Athletics Department since July.
Willard, 34, becomes the 19th head coach in Seton Hall history and joins the Pirates after three years as head coach of the Iona College men's basketball team. In 2007, he inherited a Gaels team that had won just two games the prior season. Only three seasons later, Willard guided Iona to a 21-10 overall record and was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the year.
The announcement comes on the same day that new Seton Hall women's basketball head coach, Anne Donovan, was also named.
"This is a historic moment for Seton Hall University," Hobbs said. "Kevin Willard was our first choice and he is the right man to lead our men's program. On the same day to welcome Hall of Fame legend Anne Donovan to lead our women makes this one of the great days in Seton Hall Athletics history."
During his first year as a head coach, the 2007-08 season, the Gaels finished with 10 more victories than the previous year, one of the top turnarounds in NCAA Div. I. He instilled his foundation of up tempo, aggressive play with an emphasis on having fun playing the game of basketball to his young team.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity," Willard said. "It has been a goal of mine for a long time to have the opportunity to coach in the BIG EAST. It's an honor, considering the caliber of coaches in this conference. There is a great challenge ahead of us, but my staff and I are really looking forward to hitting the ground running and integrating ourselves into the Seton Hall University community."
Prior to the start of his career as a head coach, Willard served the previous six seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at the University of Louisville, where he was mentored by college coaching legend Rick Pitino. Willard also credits his father, Ralph, as one of his coaching influences. Ralph Willard is currently Pitino's associate coach at Louisville, but enjoyed a successful 19-year run as the head coach at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross.
"As president, I am thrilled that Seton Hall has in Anne Donovan and Kevin Willard two remarkable head coaches," Monsignor Robert Sheeran said. "Our men's and women's basketball programs are entering a new era, which will bring great student-athletes and renewed winning traditions to the University. In hiring these outstanding coaches, the University has demonstrated our commitment to competing with the best of the best in the toughest conference in the country, the BIG EAST. I look forward to Coach Willard and Coach Donovan leading our basketball teams with skill and commitment on and off the court."
At Louisville, Kevin 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 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.
"We are very pleased to welcome Kevin Willard to the Seton Hall family," said Director of Athletics Joe Quinlan. "His arrival marks a new beginning for our program. He is a man of great character and integrity and one who will provide exemplary leadership to our student-athletes."
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 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.
He played his freshman season at Western Kentucky, where he played in the Hilltoppers' backcourt and sank over 40 percent of his three-point goals.
Willard hails from New York, 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.
He 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.