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Sunday, March 28, 2010
Seton Hall to hire Willard

ESPN.com news services

Seton Hall will hire Iona coach Kevin Willard as the successor to Bobby Gonzalez, the school confirmed on Sunday.

Willard will be introduced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Willard, whose father, Ralph Willard, is a veteran coach, has turned the Gaels around in just three seasons. He was hired in 2007 after a 2-28 season. This season, Iona was 21-10, 12-6 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, to finish third in the conference and Kevin Willard was named coach of the year in the league.

Willard is 45-49, including 27-27 in the MAAC, during his Iona tenure.

Two of his assistants at Iona have backgrounds with Seton Hall. Both former Pirate Shaheen Holloway and ex-Seton Hall assistant Steve Sauers are on his staff now.

Willard interviewed for Seton Hall's opening on Thursday, two days after school officials talked to Siena's Fran McCaffery about the job, and a day after they met with Mike Rice of Robert Morris.

McCaffery, who led Siena to three straight MAAC championships, appeared to be the front-runner before he agreed to fill Iowa's opening over the weekend.

A former Pittsburgh guard, Willard was mentored by Rick Pitino. He spent four years as a Boston Celtics assistant and followed Pitino to Louisville for another six years before going to Iona.

Like Gonzalez, Willard favors an uptempo, aggressive game featuring a pressure defense.

Gonzalez was fired a day after Seton Hall lost in the opening round of the NIT, a game in which Pirates forward Herb Pope was ejected for hitting a Texas Tech player below the belt. Gonzalez also picked up his seventh technical foul of the season.

Forward Robert Mitchell, who was kicked off the team days before the NIT game, was charged the same week with robbing eight people at gunpoint in South Orange. He pleaded not guilty.

A week before this season started, transfer guard Keon Lawrence was involved in a traffic accident on the Garden State Parkway in which he was driving in the wrong direction, seriously injuring the driver of the other vehicle.

Lawrence was charged with assault by auto and driving with a suspended license, and was suspended for the first eight games of the season.