BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Something seemed amiss in Seton Hall’s 69-42 NCAA Tournament blowout loss to TCU Friday night at Viejas Arena out in San Diego.
The score. The lack of effort. The horrible performance. The jacked-up shots. You name it, and the eyes don’t lie.
This wasn’t the Seton Hall Pirates we have been used to seeing in the last few years. Shoot, this wasn’t even the team we saw in the first few years of the Kevin Willard era when the team was really bad.
What we saw was players and the coach checking out on each other. It sure seemed like Willard coached his way out the door by not having his team ready to go. It sure appeared the players knew he was not going to be their head coach, so from their perspective, there was no point trying for him, even though they should be old enough to realize they play for themselves and the university.
Instead of the Pirates playing to advance for Sunday, they played like an era came to an end. With rumors suggesting Willard would be taking the Maryland head coaching job, it all makes sense now to see what happened Friday night.
There’s no looking back now for Willard. If his mind was elsewhere this past week, it’s time for him to go. He made that clear when he suggested St. Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway should be his replacement as Seton Hall head coach after Friday’s loss.
According to InsideMDSports.com’s Jeff Ermann on Twitter, Willard will be introduced as the Maryland Terrapins head coach on Tuesday.
There’s no reason to be sad or outraged about him leaving. Seton Hall fans wanted to move on from him for a long time. With one playoff win in 12 years, it made sense for an amicable divorce. Twelve years is a long time, and he knew it.
Look, Willard will be remembered fondly here. He should for how he resurrected Seton Hall. It wasn’t a long ago that the program was a wasteland. Remember where there were many empty seats and a lack of interest in the program. He changed that with recruiting, player development and winning. He did a good job here. There’s no reason to be mad at him about his decision.
But just one playoff win in 12 seasons isn’t going to cut it in a major sports market like New York, no matter if it’s college or pros. To be relevant here, a team has to do a lot of winning in the postseason.
Seton Hall hasn’t been that popular with the New York sporting public along with St. John’s for a reason. Fans don’t have the appetite to watch mediocrity or a bad product.
If this is the best Willard can do, the Pirates owe it to themselves to find a coach who can. It appears they found their guy in Holloway, who at the moment is writing his own story by leading the No. 15 seed St. Peter’s Peacocks to the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia Friday night. It would be surprising if he is not the Pirates head coach since he played for them (he played on that last Seton Hall team to reach the Sweet 16 in 2000) and coached them as Willard’s right-hand man.
In a sense, Willard did the Pirates a favor by leaving since they have a replacement while his stock is high.
It could be Willard needed the challenge to avoid complacency in his coaching career. He will get it at Maryland alright. Those fans will want plenty of playoff victories from him. This means being in the Sweet 16 every year, which he never has been. Sweet 16 should be the bare minimum for him with the expectation that the Terps are a national title contender year in and year out.
Yeah good luck to him on that. He’s going to need it. He could use some prayers while we are at it. He’s crazy to take on that job, but if it does not work out, he can always get another head coaching job. Hey, he may just come back to coach Iona or Seton Hall one day, even though we should perish the thought.
The Pirates were fortunate for the great timing that Willard decided to leave and they got a coach that is ready to take the job. There was no way they would get a power head coach due to lack of practice facility and the fact they don’t have a campus arena. As much as Pirates fans griped about Willard, a coach learning on the job would not be a good thing for a program that needs to take the next step. The Pirates likely know Holloway will be getting the job through back channels, so they were fine with Willard leaving through back channels. In fact, Willard likely even knew the program needed a change, so he made his move before they made their move on him.
After a disgusting and disgraceful performance by the Pirates in what was Willard’s last coaching game and then followed it up by hinting about his departure after the game, all is there left to be said is don’t let the door hit you on the way out to College Park, Kevin.