Kearney succeeds Willard at Holy Cross

Sean Kearney. the former Notre Dame assistant, was named head basketball coach at Holy Cross Thursday.

Kearney was chosen after a lengthy search to replace Ralph Willard, who abruptly left last month to be Rick Pitino's top assistant at Louisville. Kearney, Pitt associate coach Tom Herrion and former Tufts coach Rod Baker interviewed at the Worcester, Mass., campus this week, while Boston College associate head coach Pat Duquette interviewed on campus last week.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey -- who, along with another source, confirmed the hire -- said he was thrilled for his longtime assistant, who was with him at his previous stop at Delaware. He said Kearney is a great fit for Holy Cross because it's a similar setting to Notre Dame -- a Catholic institution with strong academics.

"This is great for a guy who really paid his dues in this profession,'' Brey said.

Kearney takes over a program that is considered the premier job in the Patriot League, as Willard took the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Holy Cross athletic director Dick Regan said recently that he wanted to ensure a smooth transition, as the Crusaders are expected to contend again in the Patriot League with four of their top five scorers returning.

Last season Holy Cross finished 11-3, second to league champ American, and 18-14 overall. The Crusaders lost to American in the Patriot League conference tournament final.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.