Candidate #4: Kevin Willard is a Proven Choice

Kevin Willard is on his way to a 3rd Straight NCAA Tournament.

Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard is looking to get out of South Orange, New Jersey, but he’s going to coach in the NCAA Tournament first.  Willard has won a Big East Tournament and beat major programs along the way.  Willard is a Rick Pitino disciple and brings that familiar style of play.  Willard’s track record is tough to top on the open market and he recruits pretty well, so no worries here.  If you want the closest thing to Billy Donovan and Rick Pitino in terms of style of play and execution, Kevin Willard is your man.

Kevin Willard’s track record

Why is Iona Basketball relevant?  Kevin Willard transitioned the program from Jeff Ruland who went from having a 23-8 season in 2005-06 to a 2-28 season in 2006-07.  Willard needed three years to turn it all around and hand it off to Tim Cluess.  Cluess has Iona Basketball back in the NCAA Tournament.  This healthy transition allowed for Iona to have 9 straight 20+ wins seasons.  Iona would make the NCAA Tournament in five of Cluess’ eight seasons.  Who set the table for Cluess?  Kevin Willard.  Cluess deserves a lot of credit, but Willard gave Cluess that springboard that other coaches just do not typically get.

Kevin Willard inherited a mess and you can read more about it here.  Willard experienced a lot of the same problems that Dennis Felton faced at Georgia when trying to turn the program around, but Willard actually succeeded in fixing the problems and getting the program back to where it used to be.  Willard convinced High School kids from the New York Metropolitan Area to buy into the vision and they did.

They will be back again for a third time and likely will be an #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Seton Hall has been comfortably getting into the NCAA Tournament while Georgia is usually NIT bound.

The Metrics are Strong

What plagues Georgia on the offensive end?  Well, just about everything.  However, there’s poor ball movement and plenty of turnovers.  Feel at ease.

Seton Hall has an efficient offense that is among the best in Assists per Game and in the top quintile in Assist-to-Turnover ratio.  The team shoots a lot of Field Goals and makes a lot of Field Goals.

Seton Hall takes 39.8% of their shots inside the restricted arc, which is 70th best in the country.  Seton Hall shot 41.1% of their shots inside the restricted arc last season, which was 42nd best in the country.

In terms of steals per game, this team dropped off a bit from last season (6.9 steals per game) and the season prior to last season had 7.4 steals per game.  Kevin Willard coached teams typically fall in the top half in the country in steals per game.

What about pacing and efficiency?

This season’s KenPom metrics.

Seton Hall is among the top third in pace of play and they have the 24th most efficient offense in the country with the 57th most efficient defense.  There’s no sacrificing of defense or offense when hiring Kevin Willard, you get the full package.  That’s 17.22 seconds per possession.

Last season

Seton Hall was in the upper quartile in terms of offensive efficiency and his team’s defense was better.  The team played slower, but that team was different from this team.  Willard adjusted based on his talent.

2015-16 Season

Seton Hall was once again among the best in terms of offensive efficiency and was in the top ten in defensive efficiency.  This team played with the same sort of tempo as the 2017-18 season’s team.

Style of Play

Willard employs both man-to-man and zone defenses.  Willard also presses on occasion too.  Willard’s 2-3 Matchup Zone is far more in line with Rick Pitino’s than Mark Fox’s, it’s extremely aggressive.  He uses a 3/4 court trap to settle into the 2-3 Matchup Zone much like Rick Pitino.

Offensively, Willard uses heavy ball screens like Billy Donovan.  The offense is predicated on movement without the ball and spacing.  Players have freedom to push it to the basket.

This is Seton Hall against Villanova.  It’s intense.  It’s Big East Basketball.

Here’s Seton Hall against Texas Tech.

It’s an exciting style of play that has been tested against the best in the country.

Tested.  Ready.  Now.

  • Can Willard adjust to his talent?  Yes.
  • Has Willard built up a program?  Yes.
  • Does Willard have a strong resume?  Yes.
  • Does Willard have an exciting style of play?  Yes.
  • Can Willard recruit talent?  Yes.
  • Is Willard looking to get out of Seton Hall?  He tried to jump for South Florida last season!
  • Does Willard have an efficient offense and defense?  Yes.

Just imagine his style of play with this roster.

Ashton Hagans’ father is heavily involved in his recruitment, where is Marvin Hagans from?  New York.  Willard is a native New Yorker who has experience coaching in New Rochelle, New York and South Orange, New Jersey.  He will do just fine with Ashton Hagans and his family.  He’ll be a transplant too.

If he can make it there…. he can make it… anywhere.  It’s up to you!  Greg!!! McGarity!!!


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