It’s only been a few hours since Saint Peter’s gracefully bowed out of the NCAA tournament after scrapping and fighting to get to an unthinkable Elite Eight. Head coach Shaheen Holloway reportedly has his bags packed, ready to assume the head coaching position at his alma mater Seton Hall.
Holloway didn’t want to talk to the media about his future while still trying to nurture the dejected players in his locker room after the loss to North Carolina on Sunday.
“I’m not worried about that,” Holloway said. “I’m worried about those 15 young men whose hearts are broken and really down. It’s my job as their leader to cheer them up, make sure they understand what they did the last two weeks. And like I said, we’re going to walk out of here the same way we walked in here, with our head up.”
But time waits for no man and fairytales only last as long as you’re still alive in the Madness. Per Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press, Holloway is going to be introduced no later than Wednesday.
Holloway has privately and publicly endorsed Ryan Whalen as Saint Peter’s “coach in waiting.” Momentum seems to be gathering behind his right-hand man to take the torch. Might also help ward off poachers of a solid core of undergrads.
— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) March 27, 2022
The Shadow League reported last week that Shaheen would be the ideal candidate to replace Kevin Willard at the Big East program, just a half hour drive away from the campus that he put on the map in March. After toppling giants like Kentucky and Purdue, Holloway will move on to a private university in New Jersey that has also traded blows with the blue blood powerhouses of college basketball for the past four decades.
Holloway’s name exploded onto the national scene after leading Saint Peter’s to the MAAC Tournament title and a historic run to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
The former McDonald’s All-American and Pirates guard (1996-2000) is expected to come to terms on a contract and take the torch from his former boss Willard as Seton Hall’s 20th head coach in the coming days, USA TODAY New Jersey reports.
Holloway’s 360-degree journey, right back to the place where he led Seton Hall to a Sweet 16 appearance as a player, is a perfect fit built on relationships the standoffish kid from Queens developed along his path to manhood.
He was Willard’s main assistant at Iona from 2007-10 and Seton Hall 2010-2018, as he was instrumental in helping Willard turn those programs around before getting his crack at sideline stalking with Saint Peter’s.
Holloway’s impending Big East arrival comes with much fanfare and historical significance. When he was a flashy point guard, driving to the hole, dishing and dazzling with a supreme handle that he cultivated on the concrete courts of Jamaica, Queens, the Big East was still a top three basketball conference. Some call his era the conference’s final decade of dominance.
The New Big East
Gone are the days when legendary coaches such as John Thompson, Rollie Massimino, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino and a host of others contributed to the game of college basketball by doggedly recruiting the talent-laden NYC area and helping to shape the conference and its gritty personality. They made college basketball games larger than life and most of the players had fanbases before they ever reached the pros.
If not for Jay Wright and Villanova, the Big East would almost be an afterthought when considering the top conferences in college hoops.
This new Big East has seen foundational teams such as Boston College and Syracuse and UConn leave for other conferences to chase football money and realignment dreams. With every defection, the Big East lost a piece of its soul. The conference almost collapsed. Then lost its way for a while, but a coach like Holloway — who is a product of that old Big East conference and has a coaching style that was cultivated on the principles of toughness, determination and a belief that anything is possible — is the perfect fit to those who want to see the original identity of the Big East remain on the big stage.
NYC Hoop Struggles: Recruiting Hidden Gems
He represents that and he obviously recruits the New York and New Jersey area as well as any coach in the country.
New York City hoops has lost some of its luster since it was king back in the ’80s and ’90s. The decapitation of the old Big East and the inability to keep the elite homegrown prospects in the Tri-State area has led to conferences like the Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC elevating past the Big East in terms of national appeal. That failure in recruiting is evident as once mighty hoops programs such as St. John’s and Georgetown are now bottom feeders.
If Holloway has proved anything in his brief and historic stint at Saint Peter’s, it’s that the Tri-State area still has immense talent. It’s raw, but evident. When a coach can cater to the strengths of his players, tap into their insecurities and vulnerabilities, then rewire them to be highly efficient at specific tasks, winning usually follows.
Holloway obviously has a coaching style that inspires his players to give maximum effort every possession. He’s proved his value and will be compensated for it.
According to the New York Post, “If Holloway, a 45-year-old Queens native, does take the job, he would be in line for a major raise. According to sources, he recently took a pay cut, due to financial constraints at Saint Peter’s brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that came after he was making roughly $300,000 per season. Willard earned a base salary of $2.4 million this past season at Seton Hall, sources said.”
The Future Of Seton Hall Basketball: Keep It In-House
Now picture Holloway — who advanced to the Elite Eight with no star recruits, unheralded competitors and overlooked local talent — coaching three, four and even five-star recruits, applying pressure Nolan Richardson style and enforcing defensive dominance in the paint as he creates an excitement around the Seton Hall program that hasn’t been experienced in New Jersey for some time.
Tri-State hoops has a new pipeline to the Big East, and if all reports are accurate, at this point he’s just waiting for the ink to dry.