Basketball

Kevin Willard revamped the volley offense

Kevin Willard revamped the volley offense

He will not be Big East Coach of the Year.

He is not omnipresent on the interview circuit. It’s not trendy. And he engages in zero self-promotion.

But quietly, clinically, Kevin Willard could be doing the best job of his 12-year tenure with Seton Hall basketball.

Known as a defense-focused coach with a strength in off-season player development, Willard revamped the Pirates offense on the fly this winter after ace guard Bryce Aiken suffered a head injury. He’s been through a surprising series of bad breaks – season-ending injuries to Jahari Long and Brandon Weston, injuries that temporarily sidelined Jared Rhoden, Myles Cale, Ike Obiagu and Alexis Yetna, illness from Kadary Richmond and a difficult COVID recovery for Tyrese Samuel.

Related: Jared Rhoden comes out with a bang

Now the Hall (19-9 overall, 10-8 Big East) has clinched a league record .500 or better for the seventh straight year, posted its sixth NCAA tournament season since 2015 and looks like a dangerous team to heading to Creighton (20-9, 12-6) for Saturday’s regular season finale (2:30 p.m., Fox). They have won seven of their last nine contests, with the only losses coming at Villanova and Connecticut by a total of 11 points.

Seton Hall Pirates head coach Kevin Willard addresses his team during a time out during the first half of the NCAA Cincinnati men's basketball game at the Cintas Center, Saturday, February 26, 2022 .

“What really helped me is that I have an older group,” Willard said. “We haven’t changed anything defensively. What we really focused on, what we had to do, was change on the fly offensively. We created a whole new offense when we saw that Bryce was really struggling with his concussion.

The biggest change was moving postgraduate guard Jamir Harris into a bigger role as a backup playmaker — and sometimes playing Richmond and Harris together.