Sean Kearney joins Colorado staff in “player development” role

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After spending three years away from the game in a coaching role, former longtime Notre Dame assistant and Holy Cross head coach Sean Kearney has accepted a position with the University of Colorado as the “director of player development.” Kearney joins the Buffaloes who are coming off of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances under head coach Tad Boyle.

A lifelong assistant who spent nine years under Mike Brey at Notre Dame, Kearney finally caught his break in the summer of 2009 when he was hired at Holy Cross to take over for longtime coach Ralph Willard. In his only season as head coach, Kearney led the Crusaders to a 9-22 mark (5-9 in the Patriot League) after being selected to win the league in the preseason poll. Then athletic director Dick Regan decided to fire Kearney after the disappointing season, explaining: “This is an affirmation of how important basketball is at Holy Cross.”

Very well-liked and respected in the coaching community, Regan took a lot of heat for pulling the trigger after just one sub-par season — even Kentucky gave Billy Gillispie two years, and Holy Cross is far from Kentucky. Kearney has remained relevant in the game  serving as an analyst for ESPN, doing color commentary for Notre Dame radio, and has done officiating evaluations for the Big Ten Conference. According to TimesCall.com, Kearney has also visited professional and college teams to study different coaches and their practices methods, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Purdue, Michigan State, Butler, Temple, Villanova, St. Joe’s, and Notre Dame.

While Kearney may not have been ready to lead a program of his own — not all assistants are meant to escalate their career to the role of a head coach — this is something that perhaps he recognized. Like all players and coaches, Kearney has worked at refining his craft during his time away from coaching. “It’s just been going around and watching other coaches and growing my game as a coach and learning from some different guys,” he said.

For the time being, Kearney will not have any recruiting responsibilities as he is not an assistant coach, but Boyle believes that his extensive rolodex will help Colorado on the recruiting trail.

As “director of player development,” it is not entirely clear what this role entails. Based upon Kearney’s explanation, his role with the program is open-ended:

“I’m so excited to get back on a staff with good people and good coaches that I really don’t care what my duties or responsibilities are. If you look at my background, I’m a Division III basketball player, and actually not a very good one. So I’ve played and coached at almost every level. I’m thrilled to be back on a wonderful staff in a program that continues to be on the upswing. Whatever responsibilities coach wants to give me, I’ll be happy to have.

Prior to Notre Dame, Kearney spent time at Delaware and Providence. It was at Providence in 1986-87 where his coaching career was jump-started after working alongside coaches like Rick Pitino, Jeff Van Gundy, and Herb Sendek, and helping to coach a young point guard named Billy Donovan all the way to the Final Four.

Nearly 30 years later, Kearney is back on the bench. Boyle believes that there may be an opportunity for Kearney to transition into an assistant coaching role in a season or two as current assistants Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn are primed to become head coaches. Boyle explained, “That’s why I wanted someone with experience, so if that happens, the transition will be smooth.”

Kearney is excited to be on board, and why shouldn’t he be with a program that is on a serious upswing?

“I think I can help these guys. I have great respect for what they’ve done, but I think I will be able to help, too.”

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.