June 10, 2009
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
Ralph Willard, whose 38 years of coaching experience include the last 10 as head men's basketball coach at Holy Cross, has joined the University of Louisville men's basketball staff as associate coach to Cardinals' head coach Rick Pitino.
Willard, who also served as head coach for four seasons at Western Kentucky (1990-94) and five years at Pittsburgh (1994-99), has previously coached with Pitino at two others stops. Willard was an assistant under Pitino with the NBA New York Knicks (1987-89) and at the University of Kentucky (1989-90).
"I've been pursuing Ralph for the last 10 years," said Pitino. "I can't tell you how excited we are that he has joined our staff and we are back together again. Ralph is truly one of the best minds in our game. I can't be happier for our players, our program, our university and our fans that such a quality coach and person has joined our U of L family."
"Leaving my alma mater and the players at Holy Cross was obviously a difficult decision," said Willard. "However, the opportunity to work for U of L and coach with Rick is very special. I'm excited about tackling the challenges a great program like Louisville will present."
Eight of Willard's collegiate teams won 20 or more games, including four that won as many as 25. His teams participated in postseason competition on nine occasions, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.
Willard compiled a 192-117 record in 10 seasons at Holy Cross, his alma mater, while guiding five teams to postseason competition (NCAA Tournament in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007; NIT in 2005). Holy Cross advanced to the Patriot League tournament championship game seven of the last nine years and Willard had a 17-6 record in the event.
Second in career coaching victories at Holy Cross, Willard built the Crusaders' program from one that had won just 22 games collectively in the three years prior to his arrival there. A three-time choice for the Patriot League Coach of the Year, he led the Crusaders to three straight league tournament titles in 2001-03, marking the first time in conference history that a team had accomplished that feat.
Willard gained his first collegiate head coaching position at Western Kentucky, where he produced an 81-42 record in four years. In his third season there in 1992-93, the Hilltoppers were 26-6, reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, and achieved WKU's highest national ranking in 22 years (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP in the final polls).
He was the head coach at Pittsburgh for five seasons, including finishing fifth in the BIG EAST in 1996-97 when his team produced an 18-15 mark. While at Pitt, Willard helped to develop a pair of NBA Draft picks in Mark Blount (Seattle SuperSonics) and Vonteego Cummings (Indiana Pacers).
Prior to his first collegiate head coaching position in 1990, Willard compiled 19 years of coaching experience. After one year as an assistant at the Merchant Marine Academy (1971-72), he spent 13 years as the head coach of his high school alma mater, St. Dominic (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), where he posted a 162-89 mark. He received five conference coach of the year honors there and his 1980 squad won the New York Class B Championship with a 24-3 record. St. Dominic is also the high school alma mater of Pitino.
He returned to the collegiate ranks in 1984 as an assistant coach at Hofstra, followed by a year on Jim Boeheim's staff at Syracuse, where he helped the 1986-87 Orangeman team reach the national championship game. Willard left the college game for two seasons to serve under Pitino with the Knicks, before following Pitino to Kentucky, where he served as the Wildcats' associate head coach for one season.
A 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, Willard was a three-year letterwinner and served as the 1966-67 team captain as a senior when the Crusaders posted a 16-9 mark.
Willard and his wife, Dorothy, have three children: Pamela, Keith, and Kevin, who is a former U of L assistant coach under Pitino (2001-07) and is currently the head men's basketball coach at Iona College.
Ralph Willard's Coaching Experience
Years School / Team Position
1971-1972 Merchant Marine Academy Assistant Coach
1972-1984 St. Dominic H.S. (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) Head Coach
1984-1985 Hofstra Assistant Coach
1986-1987 Syracuse Assistant Coach
1987-1989 New York Knicks (NBA) Assistant Coach
1989-1990 Kentucky Associate Head Coach
1990-1994 Western Kentucky Head Coach
1994-1999 Pittsburgh Head Coach
1999-2009 Holy Cross Head Coach
2009-current Louisville Associate Coach
Ralph Willard's Collegiate Head Coaching Record
Overall Conference Conf.
Season School W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Place Postseason
1990-91 Western Kentucky 14-14 .500 8-6 .571 Third
1991-92 Western Kentucky 21-11 .656 10-6 .625 Fourth NIT First Round
1992-93 Western Kentucky 26-6 .813 14-4 .778 Second NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1993-94 Western Kentucky 20-11 .645 14-4 .778 First NCAA First Round
1994-95 Pittsburgh 10-18 .357 5-13 .278 Ninth
1995-96 Pittsburgh 10-17 .370 5-13 .278 11th
1996-97 Pittsburgh 18-15 .545 10-8 .556 Fifth NIT Second Round
1997-98 Pittsburgh 11-16 .407 6-12 .333 10th
1998-99 Pittsburgh 14-16 .467 5-13 .278 11th
1999-00 Holy Cross 10-18 .357 3-9 .250 Fifth
2000-01 Holy Cross 22-8 .733 10-2 .833 First NCAA First Round
2001-02 Holy Cross 18-15 .545 9-5 .643 Second NCAA First Round
2002-03 Holy Cross 26-5 .839 13-1 .929 First NCAA First Round
2003-04 Holy Cross 13-15 .464 7-7 .500 Fifth
2004-05 Holy Cross 25-7 .781 13-1 .929 First NIT Second Round
2005-06 Holy Cross 20-12 .625 11-3 .786 Second
2006-07 Holy Cross 25-9 .735 13-1 .929 First NCAA First Round
2007-08 Holy Cross 15-14 .517 5-9 .357 Eighth
2008-09 Holy Cross 18-14 .563 11-3 .786 Second
Career Totals (19 Yrs) 336-241 .582 172-120 .589 Six NCAAs, Three NITs