Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard is coming off a highly successful season. He lead the Pirates to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years. In addition, he helped bring a Big East Tournament title back to South Orange for the first time since 1993. These moments of triumph earned Willard recognition, being named Big East co-Coach of the Year.
Rewind to the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. Willard was feeling the heat from fans in New Jersey, some in favor of new leadership.
Seton Hall had just endured a wildly disappointing 2014-15 season. That season was defined by a promising start that crashed down abruptly.
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The Pirates had just topped two top 15 teams in St. John’s and Villanova, warranting votes in the next AP poll. Sitting at 12-2, Willard’s bunch would end up going 4-13 to end the season. Reports of locker room clashes between players such as Sterling Gibbs surfaced in the media.
That season was marred by poor chemistry and a lackluster ending. Willard needed to prove he was worthy of retaining his spot at the helm of Seton Hall.
His follow up to 2014-15 most definitely proved he was the right fit for the Pirates.
Now entering the 2016-17 season, Willard has no time to reminisce about his triumph.
Backcourt production could make or break this season in New Jersey. Key contributors such as Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon are gone. Those two players accounted for an average of 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Players like Khadeen Carrington, Eron Gordon, and Myles Powell will need to step up for the Pirates, if they are to compete for another Big East title.
On the bright side, Seton Hall’s frontcourt should impress. Players such as Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, and Ismael Sanogo should give Big East clubs fits on a regular basis.
Last season, Delgado averaged about 10 points and 9 rebounds per contest. Coach Willard gave Delgado more minutes this past season, witnessing the main dividends in points per game. Despite his improvements in point totals, an increase of minutes lead to reckless play from the big man. He saw his turnover percentage increase a drastic amount while his block percentage dip significantly.
Next season the Pirates should have their fair share of challenges. While this current team may not be better than Willard’s 2015-16 bunch, with proper coaching Seton Hall could be a contender in the Big East.
Seton Hall has been defined recently by poor play and inconsistent success. Over the last 15 seasons, Seton Hall has won 20 or more games just three times. Willard has the chance to bring basketball relevance back to South Orange.
It can be done at Seton Hall. Now is the time to show the nation, the Pirates are back, and can be consistent winner. If Seton Hall fails to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth, Willard could be just another Pirates coach that falls to the wayside.