Seton Hall Kevin Willard
AP Photo

Despite rumored courtship from Virginia Tech, Kevin Willard will reportedly return to the Seton Hall Pirates for a tenth season.

Geoff Magliocchetti

The Seton Hall Pirates aren’t allowing one of the most successful men’s basketball coaches in team history to be plundered.

According to reports from Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press, the Pirates are expected to retain Kevin Willard, who is set to enter his tenth season at the helm.

Willard was reportedly courted by Virginia Tech to replace the departed Buzz Williams. The Hokies recently partook in an NCAA Tournament trek that ended with a narrow loss to Duke in the regional semifinal round. Williams’ departure to Texas A&M after five seasons has them searching for a new leader that can continue their streak of three consecutive tournament appearances.

However, according to Carino, Willard is dedicated to continuing his work in South Orange and Newark.

“(I) didn’t want to leave my team,” Willard said, per Carino. “I really enjoy this group. That was the reason.”

Turning 44 on Saturday, Willard has brought the Seton Hall program back into national relevancy. Upon his 2010 arrival from a three-season stretch at Iona, the Pirates were reeling from the four-year Bobby Gonzalez era, one that featured no NCAA tournament showings. Within two seasons, Willard brought them back into the postseason, reaching the 2012 NIT. In 2016, he guided the squad to a 25-9 mark, their best win total since 1993. The Pirates also earned their first Big East Tournament championship at Madison Square Garden, also ending a streak begun in 1993.

Willard is also the first Seton Hall coach since P.J. Carlesimo to lead the team to a team-record four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. The Pirates had gone since 2000 without a tournament win, but Willard helped end that with a first-round win over North Carolina State in the 2017 edition. Most recently, the Pirates finished in the runner-up spot in last month’s Big East Tournament, crushing Marquette in an upset semifinal win before bowing out to Villanova in the championship.

The 2019-20 season has the potential to be one of the most successful yet for Seton Hall. Leading scorer Myles Powell will at least test the NBA Draft landscape, but, with the exception of redshirt senior Michael Nzei, the rest of last season’s 20-win squad is expected to return.

Follow Geoff Magliocchetti on TWITTER