Ralph Willard

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Ralph Willard
Biographical details
Born (1946-03-28) March 28, 1946 (age 72)
Brooklyn, New York
Playing career
1964–1967Holy Cross
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1971–1972Merchant Marine (assistant)
1972–1984St. Dominic HS
1984–1985Hofstra (assistant)
1986–1987Syracuse (assistant)
1987–1989New York Knicks (assistant)
1989–1990Kentucky (associate HC)
1990–1994Western Kentucky
1999–2009Holy Cross
2009–2010Louisville (assistant)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
2010–2011Louisville (dir. of operations)
Head coaching record
Overall336–241 (college)
162–89 (high school)
Tournaments2–6 (NCAA Division I)
2–3 (NIT)
Accomplishments and honors
Sun Belt Tournament (1993)
Sun Belt regular season (1994)
3 Patriot League regular season (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007)
4 Patriot League Tournament (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007)
Patriot League Coach of the Year (2001, 2005, 2007)

Ralph Daniel Willard (born March 28, 1946) is an American former basketball coach. He served as the head men's basketball coach at Western Kentucky University from 1990 to 1994, the University of Pittsburgh from 1994 to 1999, and the College of the Holy Cross from 1999 to 2009, compiling a career college basketball coaching record of 336–241. 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.[1] At Fort Benning, Willard assisted soldiers receiving treatment for wartime injuries with paperwork.[1]

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.[1] His first coaching job was as an assistant coach at the Merchant Marine Academy during the 1971–72 season.[2] 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.[3]

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.[2]

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.[2]

In 1994 Willard became the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers men's basketball team.[2] 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.

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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

After Holy Cross[edit]

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.[4] The following season, Willard became director of operations at Louisville.[2]

From 2011 to 2013, Willard was a consultant back at Holy Cross. In the 2013–14 season, Willard scouted for the Oklahoma City Thunder.[2]

Prior to the 2015–16 season, Willard signed a one-year contract but took a leave of absence in October 2015 for health reasons.[5]

Personal life[edit]

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.[2][6] Ralph and Dorothy have lived in Bonita Springs, Florida since around 2012.[7]

In 2005 Willard was diagnosed with prostate cancer.[8] In 2008, he underwent robot-assisted open heart surgery to repair a leaking mitral valve.[9] He has successfully recovered from both and continues to coach today.

Head coaching record[edit]


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (Sun Belt Conference) (1990–1994)
1990–91 Western Kentucky 14–14 8–6 T–3rd
1991–92 Western Kentucky 21–11 10–6 4th NIT First Round
1992–93 Western Kentucky 26–6 14–4 2nd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1993–94 Western Kentucky 20–11 14–4 1st NCAA Division I Round of 64
Western Kentucky: 81–42 (.659) 46–20 (.697)
Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East Conference) (1994–1999)
1994–95 Pittsburgh 10–18 5–13 9th
1995–96 Pittsburgh 10–17 5–13 7th (BE 7)
1996–97 Pittsburgh 18–15 10–8 T–2nd (BE 7) NIT Second Round
1997–98 Pittsburgh 11–16 6–12 T–5th (BE 7)
1998–99 Pittsburgh 14–16 5–13 9th
Pittsburgh: 63–82 (.434) 31–59 (.344)
Holy Cross Crusaders (Patriot League) (1999–2009)
1999–00 Holy Cross 10–18 3–9 T–5th
2000–01 Holy Cross 22–8 10–2 1st NCAA Division I Round of 64
2001–02 Holy Cross 18–15 9–5 2nd NCAA Division I Round of 64
2002–03 Holy Cross 26–5 13–1 1st NCAA Division I Round of 64
2003–04 Holy Cross 13–15 7–7 5th
2004–05 Holy Cross 25–7 13–1 1st NIT Second Round
2004–05 Holy Cross 20–12 11–3 T–2nd
2006–07 Holy Cross 25–9 13–1 T–1st NCAA Division I Round of 64
2007–08 Holy Cross 15–14 5–9 8th
2008–09 Holy Cross 18–14 11–3 2nd
Holy Cross: 192–117 (.621) 95–41 (.699)
Total: 336–241 (.582)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. ^ a b c Johnson, Dennis Loy (November 1994). "Gaining the high post". Pitt Magazine. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Ralph Willard". University of Louisville. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ralph Willard". Holy Cross Athletics. Archived from the original on April 26, 2009.
  4. ^ Willard Joins U of L Men's Basketball Staff - Louisville Cardinals Official Athletic Site
  5. ^ Greer, Jeff (October 12, 2015). "U of L's Ralph Willard takes leave of absence". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  6. ^ "Ralph Willard, Associate Coach" (PDF). 1989-90 Wildcats Basketball. University of Kentucky. 1989. p. 22.
  7. ^ Greer, Jeff (June 17, 2015). "U of L's Willard back doing what he loves". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  8. ^ USATODAY.com - Roundup: Holy Cross coach Willard diagnosed with prostate cancer
  9. ^ [1] Archived April 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.