Big East previews: A year older, is Seton Hall ready to make noise?
NEW YORK — Will the real Seton Hall please stand up?
Is it the defensive-minded, team-offense oriented unit that opened last season 12-2? Or is it the squabbling, dysfunctional group that closed with a 3-14 landslide?
One thing is not open to debate. The Pirates were young last season, so young that coach Kevin Willard often felt like he couldn’t really say what was on his mind. And he certainly couldn’t say it with the intensity he would have used on an older group.
"I’ll be honest with you,” Willard said. "I’m the most relaxed I’ve been because I’ve been able to yell every day. Last year we were so young I couldn’t scream at them, I couldn’t yell. It’s great. Every play I blow the whistle, yell, scream.”
Willard is not one of those Neanderthal, old school coaches that believes he must berate his players to get them to perform at a high level while he soothes some inner demon. He believes players need to be pushed, challenged and, most of all, taught. He did a lot of teaching last year and might have benefited from having Dr. Dolittle on the staff.
"Last year they were like puppies," Willard said. "They were like baby deers. They’d run all over the court. They’d run into each other. Now they know what they’re doing. Now it’s just getting them to stay focused, getting them to execute at a little higher level.”
The Pirates, voted seventh in the league coaches’ preseason poll, have a chance to run with the big dogs if the pups have learned their lessons. Call it the Big East School of Obedience and Humbling.
Forward Angel Delgado, the Big East Rookie of the Year last season, and forward Isaiah Whitehead give Seton Hall a formidable duo up front. Transfer Derrick Gordon from UMass should erase the loss of point guard Sterling Gibbs.
Turns out Willard might not have to blow his whistle and yell as much as he thinks. The talk in the locker room suggests the Pirates haven’t forgotten last season.
"They’ve talked a lot that they want to get back to the success they had,” Willard said. "It’s my job to remind them how and why it went as bad as it went. They know it. They lived it. They went through it. As bad as it was, it was a good learning experience for them.”
Just in case, expect Willard to have his whistle handy. Even if the frequency can only be heard by canines.