Add another trophy to Kevin Willard’s mantelpiece.
Already the Big East Co-Coach of the Year – an honor he shared with Villanova head coach and national champion Jay Wright – Willard was named the Peter A. Carlesimo Met Writers Coach of the Year on Tuesday, April 12. The award is given to the best coach in the New York City area by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. With the win, Willard joins P.J. Carlesimo and Tommy Amaker as the only Seton Hall recipients of the award.
Never one to take too much credit, Willard said he had his team to thank.
“I have really good players who work hard, play hard, they listen,” he said at the MBWA awards din- ner on Tuesday. “They did everything that we asked them to do. When you have really good players who work hard and listen, you end up being a good coach.”
Willard and the Hall went through a rebirth this season, going 25-9 overall and 12-6 in the Big East with a program-record six conference road wins. The Pirates also shined at Madison Square Garden, taking down two of the top-five teams in the country in Xavier and Villanova as they steamrolled their way to their first Big East Tournament win since 1993.
By season’s end, Willard’s Pirates had earned the No. 20 ranking in the AP Top-25 poll and a RPI rating of 23. No other metro area team came within 20 spots of SHU’s RPI.
While the sixth-year coach ended the season with a loss to Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it was the program’s first ticket to the Big Dance in 10 years.
In addition to his players, Willard said his and his team’s success would not have been possible without his supporting cast.
“I have a great staff,” he said. “Shaheen Holloway, Fred Hill, Grant Billmeier, Ryan Whalen, Kyle Smyth, Kevin Lynch – they work hard, they put up with me and I wouldn’t have won this award without them. I have the best AD; he (Pat Lyons) gave me time and he gave me support. Without my great players, my great staff and my great leadership at Seton Hall, we would not have been able to do what we did this year.”
Gary Phillips can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.