Shaheen Holloway, who rose to national prominence as coach of the brave St. Peter’s Peacocks during their deep run at this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, has left the university Wednesday to become Seton Hall’s head coach.
The move had been expected since Kevin Willard left Seton Hall for Maryland two weeks ago, with Willard openly expressing hope that Holloway – his former assistant – would return to the college where he played two decades ago.
Holloway, 45, has been in the national spotlight for the past three weeks, starting with when the Peacocks, playing with a confidence and fearlessness atypical for a second-place team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, beat Kentucky in the first round of the tournament. .
It wasn’t long before a team of under-recruited and overlooked players from a small suburban school in Jersey City, NJ, became tournament darlings following this upheaval with others, first from Murray State then Purdue, before being beaten, 69-49, in the Eastern Regional Final on Sunday by North Carolina. The Peacocks became the first No. 15 seed to advance that far.
Holloway captured the essence of her underdog team when asked after the Murray State win how she weathered a tough game. “I have guys from New Jersey and New York,” Holloway said in his Queens accent. “Do you think we are afraid of anything?
If the rest of the nation was introduced to Holloway this month, it was hardly a secret among the college basketball coaching fraternity of the Northeast. After Iona beat St. Peter’s earlier this season to take control of the conference race, her coach, Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, praised Holloway, calling him a future star.
Hackers count on it.
Seton Hall was a mediocre program when Willard arrived in 2010, before gradually becoming part of the Pirates fixtures in the NCAA Tournament. His best team may have been in 2019-20, when Seton Hall shared the Big East regular season title with Villanova and Creighton and climbed to 15th in the final Associated Press Top 25 rankings. But the pandemic has cut the season short and Willard is leaving after winning just one tournament game in his 12 seasons.
The Final Four of the men’s and women’s tournaments
National semi-finals. March Madness is limited to the top teams and will culminate with the Final Four teams competing in the women’s and men’s tournaments on April 1 and 2, respectively. Here is a preview of the semi-finals:
In his last game, amid speculation about his departure, eighth-seeded Seton Hall was routed by ninth-seeded Texas Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 69-42. Willard also frustrated the fanbase with his disinterest in playing Pirates’ in-state rival Rutgers, a streak that resumed in the 2021-22 season, without his blessing.
Seton Hall fans, however, will get one in Holloway.
An all-American former high schooler who pushed Duke away from staying home — he grew up in Queens before crossing the Hudson to attend St. Patrick’s in Elizabeth, NJ — Holloway has had a successful career. He was inducted into the Seton Hall Hall of Fame and remains the career assist leader. His final season was his best, when he made a game-winning layup at the buzzer to beat Oregon in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
But his tenure with the Pirates also came to a cruel end – he suffered a serious ankle injury in the following game.
When the Pirates lost the following week to Oklahoma State, 68-66, in the regional semifinals, Holloway was on the bench in street clothes. Seton Hall has not returned since.