Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
When Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard takes his team into Louisville Wednesday night, he will be facing the dynamic duo of his father and his mentor.
Ralph Willard is the associate head coach of the Cardinals (11-2, 0-0 Big East) and Kevin spent six seasons under head coach Rick Pitino, including 2004-5, when the Cardinals reached the Final Four.
“I don’t know any of these players,” Kevin told the Louisville Courier-Journal of the current Louisville players. “When I first came back, my first time at Iona [in 2007], I knew all the players I’d just left, so it was very emotional.”
Pitino reportedly advised Kevin not to leave Iona for Seton Hall (7-7, 1-1), arguing the program had been “devastated” under former coach Bobby Gonzalez.
“And what you have to go through when a program is devastated is you have to change the discipline, the work ethic and the attitude,” Pitino told the Courier-Journal. “Then you’ve got to recruit, then you have to build some tradition, and it takes a long time for that blueprint. There’s no way around the hard times.”
Kevin hasn’t spoken to his father or Pitino this week, but Pitino and Kevin Willard had a heart-to-heart earlier this season, according to The Star-Ledger.
“We spoke for about 45 minutes,” Willard told the Ledger. “It was more or less him giving me a pep talk about things. Obviously, we haven’t had a whole lot of luck since we’ve gotten here — it’s been a tough go of it so far. But he just reminded me about patience and how hard it took Louisville to get going and be consistent.”
Seton Hall continues to be without senior shooting guard Jeremy Hazell, who will see a hand specialist Jan. 10. At that point, a decision will be made about his future that could include a possible redshirt.
Sophomore forward Ferrakohn Hall also recently announced his intention to transfer.
Louisville is battling its own injuries.
Rakeem Buckles (broken left index finger), Jared Swopshire (groin) and Elisha Justice (right leg) have all missed time, as have Mike Marra and New York native Russ Smith.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries here,” Pitino told the Courier-Journal. “I think we’ve done a good job of not paying attention to them.”
And on Wednesday, as he tries to score a victory for the Pirates, Kevin will try not to pay attention to his father and mentor on the other sideline.
FREE THROWS (UPDATED)Lamount Samuell, a 6-3 combo guard who played at Brooklyn Boys & Girls and Notre Dame Prep, has been cleared by the NCAA to begin playing at Fordham. He will not redshirt and can play is as many as 16 games for the Rams…Rutgers freshman guard Austin Carroll will have surgery performed on his left knee on Thursday and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
(Photo courtesy Courier-Journal)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.