Kevin Willard walked to the microphone as Seton Hall’s new men’s basketball coach and spoke about being a family man and how humbled he was taking over the Pirates’ program. Newly hired women’s coach, Anne Donovan, spoke of turning the Pirates’ moribund program into a power good enough to challenge Connecticut.
The school introduced both at a news conference yesterday at the campus in South Orange, N.J., attended by about 200 fans.
Willard inherits a program rife with on and off court problems with its players and coach. Willard’s first task is to polish the Pirates’ image. The job of going to the NCAA Tournament or winning the Big East Conference will come later.
“We don’t have an easy job ahead of us, but we have a great opportunity in such a wonderful university that I can’t wait,’’ Willard said.
Donovan must turn around a program that has had only five winning seasons in the last 15 years. The Pirates finished 9-21 and 1-15 in the Big East this season, leading coach Phyllis Mangina to resign after 25 years.
Donovan, the US Olympic coach, won’t take over the program right away. She will coach the WNBA’s New York Liberty one more season, which means she won’t take over full time at Seton Hall until late August. She refused to say how long it would take to turn around the program.
“I won’t know until I get on the floor and have some idea of where we are,’’ Donovan said. “I am excited though. What I do is build. That is what I have done at every place I have taken up, whether it was pro or college.’’
Moore, who won the award last year, and Charles have led the Huskies to a berth in the Final Four and 76 consecutive victories.
The men’s and women’s Wooden Awards will be presented April 9 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The men’s finalists will be announced today.
Charles was selected National Player of the Year by the US Basketball Writers Association. The group also chose Nebraska’s Connie Yori as Coach of the Year and Baylor’s Brittany Griner Freshman of the Year.
The school said it received an allotment of 660 tickets that were to be made available to students on a first come, first served basis Monday through the site.
Butler spokesman Marc Allan said the school shared the information in advance with some cheerleaders, band members and others with the provision they not share the information. However, word spread quickly and all the tickets were taken before the general student population had a chance to purchase any.
The former UCLA coach was formally introduced at an on-campus news conference in New York City. Knowing how many close losses the Red Storm had this past season and how much experience they’ll bring back, he was comfortable raising the possibility of St. John’s first tournament berth since 2002.
“If those five or six games are won, then they’re in the NCAA Tournament and I’m not talking to you today,’’ Lavin said.
St. John’s returns all five starters and 94 percent of its scoring from a squad that went 17-16 and lost in the first round of the NIT.