Ralph Willard

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Ralph Willard
Sport(s) Basketball
Current position
Title Assistant coach
Team Louisville
Biographical details
Born (1946-03-28) March 28, 1946 (age 68)
Playing career
1964–1967 Holy Cross
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1984–1985
1986–1987
1987–1989
1989–1990
1990–1994
1994–1999
1999–2009
2009–present
Hofstra (asst.)
Syracuse (asst.)
New York Knicks (asst.)
Kentucky (asst.)
Western Kentucky
Pittsburgh
Holy Cross
Louisville (asst.)
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
Patriot League Tournament Championship (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007)
Patriot League Regular Season Championship (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007)
Sun Belt Tournament Championship (1993)
Sun Belt Regular Season Championship (1994)
Awards
Patriot League Coach of the Year (2001, 2005, 2007)

Ralph Willard (born March 28, 1946) is the former men's head basketball coach at the College of the Holy Cross, a member of the NCAA Patriot League in Worcester, Massachusetts. He held this position from 1999 to 2009 and was the 14th head coach in the 88-year history of Holy Cross basketball.[1] Willard was also an assistant athletic director for the College. In 2007, Willard agreed on a new 5 year contract with Holy Cross to remain the men's basketball coach through 2013.[2]

On June 10, 2009, Willard became an associate head coach with the University of Louisville to team once again with longtime personal friend Rick Pitino.[3]

Career[edit]

Willard has had a distinguished career coaching on all levels. His first coaching job was as an assistant coach at the Merchant Marine Academy during the 1971/1972 season.[1] He then spent the next 13 years coaching at St. Dominic in Oyster Bay, New York, his high school alma mater. During his tenure there he led his team to the 1980 state championship. He was also honored as coach of the year in the conference 5 times.[1]

After leaving St. Dominic, Willard became the assistant coach at Hofstra University. When Willard left Hofstra, he became a member of the Syracuse University staff that appeared in the NCAA national championship game in 1987.

Willard briefly joined Rick Pitino as a member of the staff of the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks. When Pitino left to become the head coach of the University of Kentucky, Willard joined him as the associate head coach in 1989.[1]

In 1990 Willard was given his first college head coaching job at Western Kentucky University where he stayed until 1994. Within three years Willard led Western Kentucky to a Top 25 national ranking and an appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16.[1]

In 1994 Willard became the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers men's basketball team.[1] He held this position until 1999 when he returned to his college alma mater at Holy Cross where he had been a member of the class of 1967 and the captain of the 1966-1967 men's basketball team.

Career at Holy Cross[edit]

Willard began his tenure at Holy Cross with the goal of turning around a struggling program. The school had only won 22 games in its three previous seasons combined. In only his second season, Willard managed to lead the Crusaders to both the regular season and tournament titles. As a result, he was named the Coach of the Year for the Patriot League.[4]

Willard's success at Holy Cross continued as he led the school to two more conference titles and subsequent trips to the NCAA tournament in 2002 and 2003. This was the first time in the history of the Patriot League that a school had achieved this.

In 2005, Holy Cross was invited to the National Invitation Tournament where Willard led the team to the second round with a victory over the University of Notre Dame. This marked the first time that a team from the Patriot League had won a game in a post-season tournament. Willard was honored for the second time as the Patriot League coach of the year. He also received national recognition when he was named as a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award.[1]

The following year Willard led Holy Cross back to the NCAA Tournament with another Patriot League conference title. This once again earned him coach of the year honors for the Patriot League.[1]

Willard has had tremendous success in building Holy Cross into a successful program. During his tenure as the school's head coach, the Crusaders averaged more than 19 victories per season and advanced to the conference tournament championship game 6 times.[1]

Health issues[edit]

In 2005 Willard was diagnosed with prostate cancer.[5] In 2008 he underwent robot-assisted open heart surgery to repair a leaking mitral valve.[6] He has successfully recovered from both and continues to coach today.

Coaching records By school (through 2008 season)[edit]

Seasons School W-L
1990–1994 Western Kentucky 81-42
1994–1999 University of Pittsburgh 63-82
1999–2009 College of the Holy Cross 174-103

References[edit]