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College basketball

Holy Cross' Willard latest USF candidate

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2003

Next up: Ralph Willard.

The Holy Cross coach is expected to meet with South Florida athletic director Lee Roy Selmon about USF's coaching vacancy -- as soon as Selmon gets permission from his counterpart at Holy Cross, Dick Regan.

"Lee Roy called Dick and left a message, Dick called Lee Roy and left a message, and that's where it's at," Holy Cross sports information director Larry Napolitano said.

Napolitano indicated Regan would grant Selmon permission, but it might not happen until Friday, since Regan is away from the Worcester, Mass., campus until late today or early Friday.

Willard will join USF assistant David Zimroth and Florida assistant Anthony Grant as candidates. Zimroth interviewed Monday with Selmon, Grant interviewed Tuesday.

Willard has had remarkable success in four seasons at Holy Cross, taking a team that was 22-67 in three seasons before his arrival and winning the past three Patriot League titles, going 66-25 in that span. In the past three NCAA Tournaments, the Crusaders lost close opening-round games to Kentucky, Kansas and Marquette.

Willard had a losing record at Pittsburgh from 1994-99, going 64-83 in five turmoil-riddled seasons. In four seasons (1990-94) at Western Kentucky, Willard was 80-44 with three straight 20-win seasons. In 1992-93, the Hilltoppers reached the Sweet 16, won 26 and cracked the national rankings.

Willard joined the college coaching ranks unusually late. He was 40 when he took his first full-time position as an unpaid assistant at Syracuse in 1986.

Butler coach Todd Lickliter and Wagner's Dereck Whittenburg also have been mentioned as possible candidates. Butler athletic director John Parry said no schools have contacted him about speaking with Lickliter. Wagner sports information director Todd Vatter said AD Walt Hameline was with the team in Manhattan for a celebration of their conference title. Vatter said he was unaware of any inquiries to speak with Whittenburg.

The more quickly Selmon hires a coach, the more likely the Bulls are to add a third recruit to fall signees Konimba Diarra and Ricardo Freeman. The spring signing period begins Wednesday and runs through May15, and USF has at least one scholarship available. It was earmarked for former walkon Raphael Toren, but the NCAA denied the Israeli guard's eligibility.

Pahokee guard Zabian Dowdell, who averaged 21.8 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds for Class 3A first-team all-state honors, is among the high school seniors USF is pursuing.

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