A new era of Pirates’ basketball is coming to the Hall, with Kevin Willard and Anne Donovan taking over the head coaching positions of the men’s and women’s basketball programs respectively.
Willard takes over for Bobby Gonzalez who was fired on March 17 after coaching the Pirates for four seasons.
Donovan replaces Phyllis Mangina who resigned after being the head coach at the Hall for 25 seasons.
After starting his head coaching career at Iona, Willard recorded a 45-49 record in his three years leading the Gales. When Willard took over at Iona the Gales were coming off of a 2-28 record and in his first season as a head coach they went 12-20. By the end of his three years the Gales were 21-10.
“Sanity, great coaching, tireless worker, the understanding how to deal with the modern athlete, and a terrific young x and o guy,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said about what Willard will bring to the Hall.
The program that Willard is taking over is looking for some stability, with the past four head coaches at the Hall,all lasting less than five years. Willard also takes over a team that has not made the NCAA Tournament since the 2005-2006 season, with Louis Orr was head coach.
“A coach’s legacy is his players and his coaches,” Pitino said. “Not the championships they won, but the coaches and players that were under him.”
With the Pirates’, Willard inherits a team that returns eight players from last season’s roster, including four players who were at least part-time starters in conference play.
“If [Seton Hall’s] players buy into what [Willard] is doing and able to play defense and be consistent with what their coaches are preaching, they have enough guys from a talent standpoint and been around the conference long enough to give them a chance,” Cronin said.
Despite the players returning, the Pirates were picked to finish 11th out of 16 teams in the Big East Conference Coaches’ Poll. They finished last season tied for ninth place in the conference.
“The kids are working hard, doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Willard said. “We’ve made great progress in all areas.”
The women’s basketball team brings in the third coach in the programs history with Donovan’s arrival. She is taking a program that went 9-21 overall and 1-15 in the Big East last season.
Donovan, former player at Old Dominion University, had success during her playing career winning the first ever Women’s National Player of the Year in 1983, while winning the National Championship her first year with the Monarchs.
She comes to the Hall after being the head coach of the WNBA’s New York Liberty and leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Donovan’s team won the WNBA championship in 2004 when she was coaching the Seattle Storm.
“Anne Donovan is a proven coach,” DePaul’s women’s head coach Doug Bruno said. “She has to make it in recruiting by getting players that can play. Her legacy will be how well she can recruit.”
Following the worst season in program history, Donovan is not concerned with what happened last season. “I didn’t look at last year,” Donovan said. “We are just going to start over.”
Donovan brings with her a long track record to the Hall that the other coaches around the Big East notice.
“Donovan knows basketball, knows who the right players are and has the commitment from the university to be successful,” Rutgers women’s head coach C. Vivian Stringer said.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams both start the season on the road, Nov. 12, with the men facing the Temple Owls, and the women playing the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at email@example.com