After record-setting run with St. Peter’s, Shaheen Holloway leaves for Seton Hall
By Billy Witz
Shaheen Holloway, who stepped into the national spotlight as the coach of the plucky St. Peter’s Peacocks during their deep run through this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, left the university on earlier this week to become the head coach at Seton Hall.
The move had been expected ever since Kevin Willard departed Seton Hall for Maryland two weeks ago, with Willard openly expressing hope that Holloway — his former assistant — would return to the university where he starred two decades ago.
Holloway, 45, has been in the national spotlight over the last three weeks, beginning when the Peacocks, playing with a confidence and a fearlessness atypical for a second-place team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, took down Kentucky in the tournament’s opening round.
It was not long before a team of underrecruited and overlooked players from a tiny commuter school in Jersey City, New Jersey, became a tournament darling by following that upset with others, first of Murray State and then of Purdue, before being trounced, 69-49, in the East Regional final on Sunday by North Carolina. The Peacocks became the first No. 15 seed to advance that far.
Holloway captured the essence of his underdog squad when he was asked after the Murray State victory how it had held up in a rough-and-tumble game. “I’ve got guys from New Jersey and New York City,” Holloway said in his Queens accent. “You think we’re scared of anything?”
If the rest of the nation was introduced to Holloway this month, he was hardly a secret among the Northeast college basketball coaching fraternity. After Iona beat St. Peter’s earlier this season to seize control of the conference race, its coach, Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, complimented Holloway, calling him a future star.
The Pirates are counting on it.
Seton Hall was a middling program when Willard arrived in 2010, before he gradually made 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 cut the season short, and Willard leaves having won only one tournament game in his 12 seasons.
In his final game, amid speculation that he was departing, eighth-seeded Seton Hall was routed by ninth-seeded Texas Christian in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, 69-42. Willard also frustrated the fan base with his disinterest in playing the Pirates’ in-state rival Rutgers, a series that resumed during the 2021-22 season, without his blessing.
Seton Hall fans, though, will be getting one of their own in Holloway.
A former high school all-American who spurned Duke to stay home — he grew up in Queens before moving across the Hudson to attend St. Patrick in Elizabeth, New Jersey — Holloway had a successful career. He was inducted into Seton Hall’s Hall of Fame and remains the career assist leader. His last season was his best, when he delivered a game-winning layup at the buzzer to beat Oregon in the opening round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
But his tenure with the Pirates also featured a cruel ending — he severely injured his ankle in the following game.
When the Pirates lost the next week to Oklahoma State, 68-66, in a regional semifinal, Holloway was on the bench in street clothes.