Former Seton Hall Head Coach Strives to Energize Terps With ‘Gritty, Hardworking Style’
Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Kevin Willard, who recently coached Seton Hall University to five out of the last six NCAA Tournaments, has been named head coach of Maryland’s men’s basketball team, Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics Damon Evans announced Monday.
He is one of 10 active head coaches in the Power 6 conferences to win a regular-season and conference tournament championship and earn conference coach of the year in the last six seasons. A proven winner against tough opponents–Willard has one of the winningest records in terms of NCAA Evaluation Tool Quad 1 victories over the last four seasons–he also has the most non-conference wins against Big Ten teams since 2014-15. As a head coach, Willard’s teams have 28 wins over Associated Press Top-25 teams.
“We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way,” Evans said. “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.”
Willard was the Seton Hall head coach from 2010-22, helping the Pirates to the 2016 Big East tournament championship and five NCAA berths, as well as a 2020 Big East title that would have assured an appearance, were it not a COVID-shortened season. In 2018, he led the Pirates to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2004.
This past season, Willaard coached Seton Hall to a 21-11 overall record and an 11-8 mark in conference play, including wins over No. 4 Michigan and No. 7 Texas. Willard’s teams posted an 11-5 record against Big Ten opponents over the last eight seasons, which included wins over Maryland in 2018 and 2019.
“Having coached against Maryland several times and at Xfinity Center, I know how Terp fans feel about this team,” Willard said. “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.”
Willard notched a 225-161 record in 12 seasons at Seton Hall, placing him second all-time in victories in program history. Including three seasons as the head coach at Iona, his career record is 270-210.
His coaching honors include USBWA District II Coach of the Year in 2020, NABC District 5 Coach of the Year in 2019, 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.
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 (APR) 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 recognized Seton Hall with NCAA APR Public Recognition awards for boasting an APR in the top 10% in the country from 2015-17. The National Association of Basketball Coaches has given the program the Team Academic Excellence Award from 2016-20 for finishing the academic year with a grade point average above 3.0.
“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,” said university President Darryll J. Pines.
Prior to becoming 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. While there, 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 four times, including reaching the 2005 Final Four.
Before Louisville, Willard worked with Pitino as a coaching associate with the Boston Celtics for four years.
A basketball lifer, he played point guard at the Division I level for four years, the last three 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.
Willard played high school basketball at Bowling Green High School (Ky.) while his father, Ralph, was the head coach at Western Kentucky. During a 19-year career, Ralph Willard, whom Kevin credits as one of his coaching influences, also served as head coach at Pittsburgh and Holy Cross, winning 336 games and advancing to six NCAA Tournaments.
“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,” Willard said. "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, hardworking style of basketball.”
Watch Willard’s introductory press conference below, and read more about the new Terps coach at UMTerps.com.
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