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National analyst ranks Terps’ Kevin Willard as best hire of the offseason

March Madness is only three weeks in the rearview, and already more than 50 head coaching jobs have opened up in college basketball. New coaches have been installed at power programs like Duke and Louisville. High-level winners have returned to the business at places like Xavier (Sean Miller) and Butler (Thad Matta). But Maryland’s choice of Kevin Willards stands out as the best hire of the spring, according to Eamonn Brennan of TheAthletic.

In a roundtable article about the hiring cycle thus far, Brennan picked Willard as the top choice of the hiring cycle.

“Can people please put some respect on Kevin Willard’s name? Do people know nothing about Seton Hall? Did you forget where that program was before Willard arrived, or the financial limitations that are an inherent part of the gig, or the fact that it took Willard, like, six years to drag the program into relevance, and that when he did he somehow managed to keep it there? -major team practice out here on the East Coast and felt more like I was back in my childhood Catholic school gymnasium,” he wrote.

Willard didn’t arrive with the splash of Miller or the postseason accomplishments of Matta, for example, but Brennan is essentially grading on a curve because of the inherent obstacles he overcame at previously struggling Seton Hall.

“Seton Hall men’s hoops is an uphill battle for all kinds of reasons. Before Willard arrived, SHU had been to the tournament nine times in its history, and just three times since 1994; Willard took the Pirates there in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. He did a very good job there, in a way that feels totally transferable and sustainable at Maryland, and if I were a Terps fan, I would be a lot more excited about it than the consensus seems to be,” he wrote.

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Willard’s move was seemingly a foregone conclusion by the time Maryland announced it. That, along with the excitement about Seton Hall’s successor Shaheen Holloway leading St. Peter’s to that incredible upset over Kentucky, dulled the reaction to his Maryland move, Brennan pointed out.

“The whole experience of seeing Kevin Willard leave Seton Hall and take the Maryland gig this spring was profoundly weird, probably because even Willard knew which coach he wanted to replace him and was happy to share as much on his way out the door. It was so obvious that Willard was leaving and Holloway was coming in that by the end, Maryland’s announcement felt a bit perfunctory,” he wrote. “Combine that with Seton Hall’s limp finish against TCU (before TCU nearly beat Arizona two days later, mind ), and the excitement over Holloway’s return to his alma mater after a storybook run with Saint Peter’s, and Willard-to-Maryland seemed to be greeted, at least on college hoops Twitter, with a heavy dollop of “meh.”

But along with the vastly improved resources he’ll have at Maryland compared to Seton Hall, come vastly higher expectations.

“It’s got nothing to do with the coaches as much. Very little to do with the coaches, as much as the jobs. Like, Kevin Willard just went to the NCAA tournament in five of the past six years at Seton Hall. He could have continued coaching there forever,” CBS analyst Gary Parrish said earlier this month. “Mark Turgeon went to five NCAA Tournaments in a six-year span, in a six-tournament span, and he made the round of 32 in 2015, Sweet 16 in 2016. Round a 64 in 2017, missed it in 2018, round of 32 in 2019 , no tournament in 2020, round of 32 in 2021 and then was walked away eight games into the following season.”

First things first: Willard has nearly half a roster to fill out. He’s added one recruit, local Class of 2022 forward Noah Batchelor. But Batchelor isn’t viewed as the sort of player who can immediately become a top player on a Big Ten contender. Those ready-made players tend to come from the transfer portal, where Willard’s been spending much of his energy on him. Here’s the latest on all of those efforts and which of his top targets might be coming to College Park.


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