After Seton Hall's 69-42 loss to TCU in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Pirates Head Coach Kevin Willard was asked by the New York Post about rumors of him taking the head coaching job at the University of Maryland. His response was well, very interesting...
The exact quote (from the Daly Dose of Hoops quotebook):
“I’ll give you exactly what I can tell you. I have an agent who I haven't talked to yet. I don't know who he's talking to. I have absolutely no idea, but when I get home, I'll talk to my agent and discuss things with my agent. I have no idea. I literally have not — I've had three different agents in the last month, my original agent I've had for 12 years went to TV broadcasting. I'll be honest with you. If I'm not here next year, I'd love, if Shaheen Holloway is here, that would be the happiest thing to happen to me.”
There are several moving parts at play here. The first is the rumor that a deal has already been done for Willard to move on and take the vacant job at Maryland. A couple of sources in Maryland and New Jersey told College Hoops Digest that they believe a deal was being discussed this week that Willard would replace interim coach Danny Manning in College Park and he would be announced as the Terps next head coach in the coming weeks. That leads us to our second moving part..St. Peter's head coach Shaheen Holloway.
Holloway's St. Peter's Peacocks stunned the world on Thursday when they upset Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Holloway was a former assistant to Willard at Iona and Seton Hall before taking the head coaching position at St. Peter's. After Holloway won the MAAC Tournament and received an NCAA bid, it was common knowledge that Holloway was the heir apparent to Willard. Holloway is a Seton Hall alumni with an NCAA pedigree at Seton Hass when he led the team to a Sweet 16 berth as a player. The athletic director who hired Holloway as head coach in 2017 at St. Peter's, Bryan Felt, is now the AD at Seton Hall. The person who replaced Felt as SPU athletic director, Rachelle Paul, worked at Seton Hall as an associate athletic director prior to getting the AD position at St. Peter's Holloway's top assistant coach at St. Peter's, Ryan Whalen, was on Willard's coaching staff with Holloway and then left Eastern Kentucky University to take an assistant coaching position with Holloway at SPU in 2018. It's presumed that Whalen would move with Holloway over to Seton Hall's coaching staff if and when Holloway gets the job in South Orange. However, that leads us to a coaching vacancy at SPU that is our third moving part, Seton Hall associate head coach Grant Billmeier.
Billmeier has been considered one of the top assistant coaches in the nation and has developed centers like Angel Delgado and Romaro Gill that had raw talent but not a lot of basketball acumen and turned them into professional basketball players. Billmeier was rumored to be a finalist for the Fordham head coaching job last year that eventually went to Villanova assistant Kyle Neptune. A lifelong New Jersey resident and a Seton Hall alumni, Billmeier could seamlessly step into the role and finally get the head coaching job that he deserves in succeeding Holloway in Jersey City.
All of this could come together fairly quickly but the focus remains on Holloway who looks to guide the Peacocks to a Sweet 16 game with a win over Murray State on Saturday. A win in a nationally televised game would make Holloway the hottest coaching commodity on the market and would give the Pirates a huge amount of good publicity if he is announced as the new head coach at Seton Hall
For Kevin Willard, if he has indeed decided on Maryland, it's going to be a challenge to get the program back to the heights it was accustomed to under Gary Williams. The prior coach at Maryland, Mark Turgeon, could not get out of Williams's shadow but he did reach the NCAA Tournament in 6 out of the 11 seasons and got Maryland to the Sweet 16 in 2015-16 before abruptly resigning earlier this season. Turgeon could recruit well but his teams almost never measured up to their preseason expectations. I know Terps fans well and they will be skeptical of Willard's 1-5 NCAA Tournament resume and the honeymoon will be very short. They're a demanding fan base in College Park and Willard's Terps playing Steve Pikell's Rutgers team twice a year in the Big 10 Conference will be a constant measuring stick for Willard and the program. There's reason to be optimistic that Willard can be successful and win Terps fans and boosters over with his style of coaching. There was criticism from Maryland fans about Williams before he retired that he could not recruit elite players like Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony who were both from Maryland to stay in the area and play for the Terps. This didn't take into account what built Maryland's successful Final Four and then national championship teams in 2000 and 2001. Those championship teams did not have one McDonald's All-American on them. Williams developed players like Steve Blake and Juan Dixon into great college basketball players and they won him a banner. Willard has the same type of skill. Players stuck around for four years and got better on his Seton Hall teams. He could do the same at Maryland.