- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2022

The University of Maryland named Kevin Willard as its new men’s basketball coach, athletic director Damon Evans announced Monday morning. 

“We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way,” Evans said in a statement. “Known for his gritty, hard-working teams, Kevin has had tremendous success, winning conference championships and leading his teams to NCAA Tournaments.” 

The seven-year deal will pay Willard $3.9 million annually, according to NCAA.com and Big Ten Network reporter Andy Katz. His contract also includes a $100,000 escalating increase each season, averaging out to $4.2 million annually over the life of the deal. 

Willard comes to College Park from Seton Hall, where he led the Pirates to a 225-161 record in 12 seasons. 

Willard passed P.J. Carlesimo earlier this season for second place on Seton Hall’s career wins list. 

Willard led Seton Hall to appearances in five of the last six NCAA Tournaments, the Big East Tournament championship in 2016 and a regular-season title in 2020. The Pirates, who only made the second round once in Willard’s tenure, lost to Texas Christian, 69-42, on Friday. 

Willard’s teams finished fourth or better in the Big East in each of the last six seasons. Willard had seven 20-win seasons with the Pirates. 

“Growing up and coaching in the region, I have always admired the Maryland basketball program and being named the new head coach of one of the biggest brands in college basketball is a tremendous honor,” Willard said in a statement. 

The 46-year-old is expected to oversee a rejuvenation of the Maryland program after its first losing season in nearly three decades.

He replaces Mark Turgeon, who resigned in early December, and said he understands the expectations of Maryland fans, who grew frustrated with Turgeon’s lack of deep postseason success. 

“I know how Terp fans feel about their team and understand their expectations,” Willard said. “I can promise Terp Nation we will work to make them proud of this basketball team.” 

The son of former Pittsburgh and Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard, the Long Island, New York, native played for his dad with the Panthers before joining Rick Pitino’s Boston Celtics staff in 1997. Willard followed Pitino to Louisville before taking the top job at Iona in 2007 — where Pitino, who declined interest in the Maryland vacancy, currently coaches. 

With the Gaels, Willard took over a then 2-28 program and led them to a 20-win mark in just three seasons. He left Iona in 2010 for the Seton Hall job. 

Willard’s hire has the backing of former Maryland coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Williams, who cited his success in a tough conference like the Big East. 

Kevin Willard was a proven winner in the Big East while at Seton Hall. The intensity level of his teams reflect the passion that Kevin will bring to our team and the university,” Williams said.

Led by assistant coach Danny Manning after Turgeon’s midseason departure, Maryland finished the season under .500 (15-17) for the first time since the program’s 12-16 mark in the 1992-93 campaign. The Terrapins have made the second round of the NCAA Tournament four times since 2015 but only have one Sweet 16 appearance in that span.

Willard will be introduced at a press conference at Xfinity Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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