Johnny Holliday said a mouthful while interviewing Maryland basketball coach Kevin Willard at an event in Catonsville.
“Well coach, this is my 44th year doing Maryland games, football, basketball but I’ve, never felt this kind of excitement among the Maryland base as I have since they announced that you were coming as the basketball coach,” Holliday said. “There’s always an adjustment period, but these fans are the greatest fans in the country, I think, and all they’re looking for is a team that’s really competitive, gets to the postseason and a coach that reflects their personality. Which, I know your players reflect your personality on the floor.”
Whether that was hyperbole or not, it’s true that fans are excited about Willard’s arrival. And while it’s early, it appears his personality is a strong fit for Maryland’s diehard, demanding fans.
“When you take a job, you really have to look at it as, ‘Can I be successful there or is this a place where in four years you’re fired? And it’s a big move, because Seton Hall, I had turned Seton Hall into my DNA. It wasn’t my DNA when I got it and learned that lesson very quickly. But the University of Maryland is a special place. The program is a special place, the fan base is a very, very passionate fan base , which I love,” Willard said.
“And when this job came open, this is something that I said I just don’t think you can pass up, because it has everything that I think we can be successful. And at the same time, it matches what I want my program to be.”
Willard’s been on a roll in recruiting, grabbing two top local players in Jamie Kaiser and DeShawn Harris-Smith. He credited his staff.
“I made a mistake when I first got the Seton Hall job. You know, I was like, I’m gonna have one Jersey guy and I’ll have one west coast guy and I’ll have one southern guy and we’re gonna recruit everywhere… So I knew coming into this job, I said I need a staff that knows this area, understands this area, that can help me. but it’s not the same [as being from here],” he said.
“You know, I’d go three hours back up to Jersey, then come back down. I wanted at least two guys who really, really knew this area and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. So I hired two great [local] guys… [Tony Skinn] and someone I respected, David Cox, for years and years. I brought Grant Billmeier with me, who knew my system, was very important, one of the best big guy coaches in the country.
More from Willard below: