Athletic director Pat Lyons and the rest of Seton Hall’s administration should tread carefully when it comes to responding to the recent serious interest from Virginia Tech to hire Kevin Willard as their next head coach.
Par for the course that is Willard’s nine-year tenure in South Orange, Seton Hall fans are split.
On one hand: one N.C.A.A. win and a losing conference record over nine seasons for $2 million a year.
On the other: four straight Big Dance bids and a Big East tournament title on the side.
One thing for sure is that Seton Hall could do a lot worse at head coach should they decide not to up Willard’s salary, which at present day just cracks the top half of the Big East at a bit over $2 million after bonuses.
After all, two N.C.A.A. showings during ten seasons from 2000-09 without a fraction of the current program’s stability is the direct comparison. And even that is no guarantee.
Buzz Williams was pulling in a base salary of $3 million at Virginia Tech, so a significant pay bump is in order if Willard were to jump ship.
Willard currently earns a salary that is on par with some basement high-major programs like Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Rutgers while he surely has seen the pay increases for guys like Chris Mack ($4m+) and Chris Holtmann ($3m+) who have left the Big East recently.
I don’t think it’s controversial at all to say that Willard deserves more.
The progress seen in all aspects of the program since arrival are easily measurable. The only thing really missing is recreated success and/or a multi-win showing in the N.C.A.A. tournament.
This must be a money thing. It has to be.
A final year with Myles Powell by his side. A family man and dedicated father. An even higher stock in the coaching carousel next summer.
Why uproot now?
It seems a bit unnatural for Willard to leave aside from the motivation of money.
With so many things aligned for an encore 2019-20 season, my take is that this is a multi-year plan.
It’s savvy to hedge some of your personal net-worth by getting a salary boost and extension just in case next season doesn’t exactly go as planned and equivalent — Virginia Tech is not a hoops haven — jobs are not available in 2020.
Unexpected failure combined with losing Powell, a more bare cupboard going into 2020-21, and the same contract would be a bad situation for Willard.
With four straight bids, a BET title under his belt, and Pat Lyons to answer to, you’d think Willard already has enough bargaining chips to avoid that.
But a serious offer from another school might just be the chip that gets Lyons to fold.
It sounds like that fold could realistically turn out to be realizing it’s not going to work going forward and throwing in the towel to look at Shaheen Holloway or Tim Cluess as a replacement.
Or for most Seton Hall fans, the hope is that Lyons folds his hand, and unfolds his wallet.