March 28, 1946 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1971–1972||Merchant Marine (asst.)|
|1972–1984||St. Dominic HS|
|1987–1989||New York Knicks (asst.)|
|1989–1990||Kentucky (assoc. HC)|
|Administrative career (AD unless noted)|
|2010–2011||Louisville (dir. of operations)|
|Head coaching record|
|Overall||162–89 (.645) (high school)
336–241 (.582) (college)
|Accomplishments and honors|
|Patriot League Tournament (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007)
Patriot League regular season (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007)
Sun Belt Tournament (1993)
Sun Belt regular season (1994)
|Patriot League Coach of the Year (2001, 2005, 2007)|
Ralph Daniel Willard (born March 28, 1946) is an American college basketball coach who was mostly recently an assistant men's basketball coach at Louisville. Previously, Willard was head coach at the College of the Holy Cross from 1999 to 2009 and was the 14th head coach in the 88-year history of Holy Cross basketball. Willard was also an assistant athletic director at Holy Cross.
After graduating from Holy Cross, Willard was drafted to the United States Army. Willard finished basic training when negotiations began for the Paris Peace Accords, so Willard was reassigned to Fort Benning instead of being sent overseas to Vietnam. At Fort Benning, Willard assisted soldiers receiving treatment for wartime injuries with paperwork.
After serving in the Army, Willard returned to his alma mater, St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, New York, to be a physical education teacher. His first coaching job was as an assistant coach at the Merchant Marine Academy during the 1971–72 season. From 1972 to 1984, Willard was a coach at St. Dominic High. During his tenure there he led his team to the 1980 state championship, posted a 162–89 record, and earned five conference coach of the year honors.
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.
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.
In 1994 Willard became the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers men's basketball team. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
In 2007, 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. 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 six times.
After Holy Cross
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. The following season, Willard became director of operations at Louisville.
Prior to the 2015–16 season, Willard signed a one-year contract but took a leave of absence in October 2015 for health reasons.
Ralph Willard is married to the former Dorothy Schreiber and has three children, including college basketball coach Kevin Willard, who has been head coach at Seton Hall since 2010. Ralph and Dorothy have lived in Bonita Springs, Florida since around 2012.
In 2005 Willard was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In 2008, he underwent robot-assisted open heart surgery to repair a leaking mitral valve. He has successfully recovered from both and continues to coach today.
Head coaching record
The following table lists Willard's record as a college basketball coach.
|Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Sun Belt Conference) (1990–1994)|
|1991–92||Western Kentucky||21–11||10–6||4th||NIT First Round|
|1992–93||Western Kentucky||26–6||14–4||2nd||NCAA Sweet 16|
|1993–94||Western Kentucky||20–11||14–4||1st||NCAA Round of 64|
|Western Kentucky:||81–42 (.659)||46–20 (.697)|
|Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East Conference) (1994–1999)|
|1995–96||Pittsburgh||10–17||5–13||7th (Big East 7)|
|1996–97||Pittsburgh||18–15||10–8||T–2nd (Big East 7)||NIT Second Round|
|1997–98||Pittsburgh||11–16||6–12||T–5th (Big East 7)|
|Pittsburgh:||63–82 (.434)||31–59 (.344)|
|Holy Cross Crusaders (Patriot League) (1999–2009)|
|2000–01||Holy Cross||22–8||10–2||1st||NCAA Round of 64|
|2001–02||Holy Cross||18–15||9–5||2nd||NCAA Round of 64|
|2002–03||Holy Cross||26–5||13–1||1st||NCAA Round of 64|
|2004–05||Holy Cross||25–7||13–1||1st||NIT Second Round|
|2006–07||Holy Cross||25–9||13–1||T–1st||NCAA Round of 64|
|Holy Cross:||192–117 (.621)||95–41 (.699)|
National champion Postseason invitational champion
- Johnson, Dennis Loy (November 1994). "Gaining the high post". Pitt Magazine. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Ralph Willard". University of Louisville. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Ralph Willard". Holy Cross Athletics. Archived from the original on April 26, 2009.
- Willard Joins U of L Men's Basketball Staff - Louisville Cardinals Official Athletic Site
- Greer, Jeff (October 12, 2015). "U of L's Ralph Willard takes leave of absence". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- "Ralph Willard, Associate Coach" (PDF). 1989-90 Wildcats Basketball. University of Kentucky. 1989. p. 22.
- Greer, Jeff (June 17, 2015). "U of L's Willard back doing what he loves". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- USATODAY.com - Roundup: Holy Cross coach Willard diagnosed with prostate cancer
-  Archived April 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.