Virginia Tech targeting Seton Hall's Kevin Willard to replace Buzz Williams | Zagsblog
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Monday / June 24.
  • Virginia Tech targeting Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard to replace Buzz Williams

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    With the inevitable move of Buzz Williams to Texas A&M, Virginia Tech is now targeting Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard to replace him, multiple source said.

    “It’s Kevin’s job if he wants it,” one source said. “Virginia Tech will pay.”

    The source said it should all shake out this week, one way or the other.

    Williams reportedly made $3 million this past season at the ACC school, which would be a significant pay raise from what Willard now makes, which is closer to $2 million.

    Still, Willard is a unique guy and would have multiple reasons to stay in the Big East. He has family in the area, he has potential top-15 type team next year and he remains very loyal to rising senior guard Myles Powell, who figures to be in the mix for Big East Player of the Year and various national honors.

    Willard, 43, is 169-126 (.573) in nine seasons at Seton Hall, with four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He also led the Pirates to the 2016 Big East Tournament championship. This past season, Seton Hall was picked eighth in hthe Big East after the departure of four senior starters, but Willard led the team to a third-place finish and a fourth straight appearance in the Big Dance.

    Asked last month about potentially leaving Seton Hall, Willard told NJ Advance Media: “No, I mean I don’t think about it that way. I love where I am. I’ve been here nine years, my family loves it here. You never think about anything besides your own job so if the Knicks called, yeah, I might take that job.”

    Rick Pitino, Willard’s mentor, said he was surprised that other schools hadn’t come calling for Willard.

    “The fact that nobody has been beating down his door is the biggest puzzle of my life,” Pitino, who was Willard’s boss with the Boston Celtics and at Louisville, told NJ Advance Media last month by phone from Greece, where he’s coaching. “Seton Hall is a very difficult job. I’m not knocking the job. Everybody has missiles and jets and they all have these brand new practice facilities and they have everything. And Kevin doesn’t have any of that and he still has maintained that program at a high level.”

    Seton Hall athletic director Pat Lyons last month declined to comment on whether Willard was in line for a contract extension given his recent success, but he gave his coach and close friend a strong vote of confidence.

    “Kevin has done a tremendous job with our program, not only making Seton Hall an annual contender for the Big East championship and earning NCAA bids, but also developing our student-athletes into well-rounded, complete men,” Lyons told NJ Advance Media via email. “Our team competes hard on the court, they compete hard in the classroom, they serve in the community, they are great ambassadors with our fans and alumni and they become proud graduates of Seton Hall University. Kevin’s vision for this program has led to great success, and we are looking forward to another exciting NCAA Tournament with his group.”

    If Willard does leave, expect Seton Hall to target Iona coach Tim Cluess.

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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.