Pirates one of only two BIG EAST Schools to earn this year's award, recognizing programs with a team GPA above 3.0 during 2015-16.
Pirates are among five teams in the eight-team field to have appeared in postseason in 2016.
Seton Hall star becomes first Pirates NBA Draft selection since 2001.
Incoming freshman from great basketball family averaged over 19 points a game as a high school senior.
Talented Brooklyn native led The Hall back into national prominence and the 2016 BIG EAST Tournament championship.
The Pirates fall to Butler, on February 10, 2016.
Seton Hall 69, Georgetown 61 February 6, 2016
Photos from Marquette @ Seton Hall on February 3, 2016.
Seton Hall @ Creighton
Check out the photo gallery from the men's basketball game against St. John's.
**2015-16 PETER A. CARLESIMO MET WRITERS COACH OF THE YEAR**
**2016 BIG EAST CO-COACH OF THE YEAR**
Good things come to those who wait is the old saying, and in the case of Seton Hall men's basketball coach Kevin Willard, the vision of turning Seton Hall into a BIG EAST contender and NCAA Tournament threat has now been realized. During his sixth season at the helm in 2015-16, Willard guided the Pirates to the program's first BIG EAST Tournament crown since 1993 and the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. Armed with an incredible wealth of talented sophomores, Willard led the Pirates to a 25-9 record overall and 12-6 in the BIG EAST, putting together a season only matched by the legendary Pirate squads of 1989, 1991, 1993, 2000 and 2004. With another year of growth and another talented recruiting class coming in, Willard will have The Hall ready to make another run at the title and more in 2016-17.
Willard has mentored eight All-BIG EAST selections, three BIG EAST All-Rookies, 12 BIG EAST Academic All-Stars, and has boasted a perfect single-year academic progress rate in the four of the five NCAA reports since becoming the Pirates' head coach. He has proven to be a strong evaluator and recruiter of talent, as he brought in a consensus top 15 national recruiting class in 2014, led by Isaiah Whitehead, the program's first McDonald's All-American since 2001 and just the fifth all-time. He also has been able to retain Metropolitan New York's top talent with seven of the team's 13 scholarship student-athletes hailing from either New York City or New Jersey.
In 2015-16, Willard developed a team with a defensive identity full of grit and determination. The Pirates ranked as one of the top defensive squads in the country all season and the efforts led to 25 victories, the program's most since winning 28 in 1992-93. During BIG EAST play, Willard's Pirates made a huge second-half run, rattling off wins in nine of their final 11 games to finish 12-6, which was good for third place. The finish exceeded the BIG EAST coaches' expectations for The Hall as they had the Pirates finishing seventh. Willard was named the BIG EAST Co-Coach of Year and the Peter A. Carlesimo Met Writers Coach of the Year for leading the turnaround.
Willard's Pirates flew under the radar for most of the season, but the Pirates took the nation by storm during the BIG EAST Tournament, defeating Creighton, No. 5 Xavier and No. 3 Villanova on three consecutive days to claim the tournament crown. Led by Whitehead's 26-point performance in the final, the Pirates cut down the nets to earn respect as the champion of one of the best conferences in college basketball. Whitehead and fellow classmates Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo were all named All-Tournament with Whitehead claiming the Dave Gavitt Trophy as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Willard and his staff's development of Whitehead was critical to the season's success. After intensely working out over the summer, Whitehead made the transition to point guard and became one of the best in the nation, posting averages of 18.2 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks overall during the season and 20.0 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the 18 BIG EAST conference games. His effort landed him first-team All-BIG EAST honors, a unanimous selection, becoming the first Pirate since Brian Laing in 2008 to be recognized as on the first team.
Whitehead was not the only Pirate to seriously improve under Willard's staff in 2015-16, as the entire sophomore class took a major leap. Khadeen Carrington became a steady scorer for the Pirates, raising his points per game average by over five and increasing his shooting percentages by over five percent. Desi Rodriguez developed his outside shooting to become a scoring threat from all areas of the court, and the numbers showed as he more than doubled his scoring numbers and increased his three-point shooting from eight percent to over 38 percent. Angel Delgado, an All-BIG EAST honorable mention selection, became a better low-post scorer and increased his shooting percenatages, including a marked improvement in free throws, where he went from 41 percent to 54 percent. Ismael Sanogo's hard-working summer paid off in going from averaging 5.3 minutes a game to 27.9 minutes a game and developing into one of the BIG EAST's best defenders; he was the only student-athlete in the conference to rank in the top 12 in rebounds, steals and blocks.
At season's end, Willard's young squad had proven to be one of the nation's best. The Pirates finished in top 25 in RPI and KenPom rating, and the team was ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll, just the seventh time in program history the team was ranked at the end of the year.
In 2014-15, Willard guided one of the youngest teams in NCAA Div. I to a winning season full of accomplishments. Under Willard's direction, the Pirates captured the 2014 Paradise Jam championship, claimed the first-ever Garden State Hardwood Classic trophy with a win over Rutgers and defeated two Associated Press top-15 teams (No. 15 St. John's, No. 6 Villanova) in back-to-back games for the first time in over 20 years. Seton Hall returned to the national rankings for the first time in three years, earning a No. 19 ranking in the Associated Press poll on Jan. 5 and remaining ranked for a total of three weeks. The No. 19 ranking was the highest for Seton Hall since being No. 22 on Jan. 30, 2001 and the first time inside the top 20 since Jan. 23, 2001.
And although the team was young, Willard and his staff did an outstanding job developing the freshmen student-athletes into fantastic BIG EAST contributors, headlined by forward Angel Delgado, who was named the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year after becoming just the second freshman in BIG EAST history to lead the conference in rebounding (Troy Murphy in 1999). Joining Delgado on the BIG EAST All-Rookie team was Whitehead, who had a big impact on the team, finishing second in scoring at 12.0 points per game. He earned Joe Calabrese MVP honors after scoring 25 points in Seton Hall's win over Rutgers in the inaugural Garden State Hardwood Classic. Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Rashed Anthony also were freshmen playing critical roles for the Pirates, who received nearly half of their points this season from freshmen.
Willard and his staff also aided in the development of junior Sterling Gibbs, who blossomed into a BIG EAST star after finishing in the top five in the conference in scoring and assists, the only player in the league to do so. Gibbs was a second-team All-BIG EAST selection, dropped 20 or more points nine times during the season and had a 40-point outburst against Illinois State in the Paradise Jam championship title game to earn MVP honors. Gibbs finished ninth in the nation in three-point shooting at 43.6 percent, which is also second-highest of any Seton Hall Pirate ever.
In 2013-14, Willard ushered the Pirates into a new era in the BIG EAST Conference in a year that was filled with milestones. Fuquan Edwin, a four-year-player under Willard, rose to first on the program's all-time steals list and became the second Seton Hall player to take home the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Award and the first since Jerry Walker in 1992-93. Edwin was also named a Second Team All-BIG EAST performer while Jaren Sina became the first Pirate selected to the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team since Jeremy Hazell in 2007-08.
On the court, Willard guided The Hall to its first BIG EAST Tournament semifinal appearance since 2001. Along the way, he orchestrated the program's first victory over a nationally ranked opponent in the top-3 of the Associated Press Poll upending No. 3 Villanova in the quarterfinals on March 13, 2014. Willard also mentored The Hall's first BIG EAST All-Tournament Team selection in over a decade with Eugene Teague receiving the prestigious accolade.
Willard quickly restored the Pirates to prominence by his second season in 2011-12. Seton Hall won 21 games, the most since the 2003-04 campaign, and earned a berth in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for the 17th time in program history. As a No. 1 seed of the NIT, the Pirates scored a first round win over America East regular season champion Stony Brook, marking their first post-season victory in eight years.
Willard also vaulted The Hall back into the national rankings (No. 24) for the first time in nearly 12 years winning 15 of the first 17 games of 2011-12. It was the program's best start since 1992-93. The Pirates earned victories over a pair of top-10 teams, with wins over No. 8 Connecticut (Jan. 3) and No. 9 Georgetown (Feb. 21).
Seton Hall got off to a strong start again in 2012-13 in what proved to be an injury-plagued campaign. The Pirates opened with a 12-2 mark, a spurt that included a seven-game win-streak. Despite being limited to only seven healthy scholarship players at times during the second half of the season, the Pirates pulled together down the stretch. Seton Hall defeated NCAA Tournament bound Villanova (Feb. 25) with a thrilling last second comeback at the Prudential Center. The undermanned Pirates also picked up a BIG EAST Tournament victory over South Florida (March 12).
In Willard's first year in South Orange, the Pirates played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, which included 10 games against ranked teams and 18 games against teams that made it to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Despite the daunting gauntlet, the Pirates registered victories over eventual Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Champion Saint Peter's, Marquette, No. 15 St. John's and No. 9 Syracuse. The 90-68 upset over the Orange was only Seton Hall's fifth win in 27 games at the Carrier Dome.
Willard was named head coach of the Seton Hall men's basketball program on March 29, 2010. He became the 19th head coach in Seton Hall history joining the Pirates after three years leading the Iona College men's basketball program. In 2007, he had inherited a Gaels team that had won just two games the prior season. In his first year at the helm, the Gaels had a 10-win improvement, ranking as one of the top turnarounds in NCAA Div. I. Then in year three, Willard guided Iona to a 21-10 overall record, and he was named MAAC Coach of the Year.
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 enjoyed a successful 19-year run as the head coach at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross.
At Louisville, 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 postseason 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.
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 facets of basketball operations. He also provided advance scouting, video tape breakdowns and assisted with individual workouts prior to games.
A basketball lifer, Willard played point guard on the Division I level for four years; the last three coming at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned BIG EAST All-Academic honors while appearing in 75 games for the Panthers. He spent his freshman season at Western Kentucky, where he played in the Hilltoppers' backcourt and sank over 40 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.
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.
Willard 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.