The Saint Peter’s Peacocks and head coach Shaheen Holloway have become the darlings of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The 15th-seeded Peacocks, a small Division I program of about 2,600 students in Jersey City, New Jersey, has its first two tourney wins ever. First, they knocked off No. 2 seed and college blue blood Kentucky in the first round. Their massive upset is just the tenth time a 15 seed knocked off a No. 2 seed.
THE PEACOCKS HAVE DONE IT 🤯
15-SEED SAINT PETER'S TAKES DOWN 2-SEED KENTUCKY pic.twitter.com/tqS07tJD4O
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2022
“This is something that these guys understand, “ said Holloway following the upset win. “No disrespect to anybody, but we wasn’t coming down here just to lose. We came down here to fight and we did. Hats off to these guys.”
The Peacocks then handled the No. 7 seed Murray State Racers in the round of 32 to advance to next week’s East Regional in Philly, roughly 90 miles from their campus. His Peacocks are connected on both ends and that’s how he coaches. Effort, efficiency, and desire.
Following the win Holloway revealed his recipe to an unprecedented run during March Madness as “CINDERELLA” ….
Here’s what he told Mike Wells of ESPN:
“That’s how I played, right? I played that way. I played to give it 110 percent all the time. I tell my guys all the time, you give me 100 percent and I’ll give you 200 percent. I was a decent small player. I’m small, people counted me out.”
Holloway, from Queens, New York, was a typical gritty and flashy but undersized NYC point god. Despite his size, he was considered one of the elite playmakers and hardwood shakers in a long line of spectacular New York guards in the ’80s and ’90s who not only killed in-school competition but honed their skills on the playgrounds of legendary street hoop venues such as Rucker Park in Harlem.
He was a 1996 McDonald’s All-American and also the MVP of the historic high school basketball game, in which he played alongside — and outshined — a young Kobe Bryant, before enjoying four seasons at Seton Hall (1996-2000) in the “old” Big East.
Holloway’s pro career ended after playing eight seasons of professional ball overseas. At that point he returned to the states to become a coach.
“So I had something to prove every time,” Holloway continued. “So I coach that way. … My thing is this: It’s a give-and-take thing. If you give me hard work on defense, I’ll let you play on offense. That’s us.
“Give me what I want on defense, offense, you can go out there. You don’t come out of the game playing for me making mistakes on offense. You come out of the game for making mistakes on defense. That’s just how it is.”
Holloway was asked how his team dealt with the larger Murray State team when it started to increase the physicality in the game.
“I’m going to say this, and it’s going to come off a bit crazy,” Holloway said. I got guys from New Jersey and New York City you think we scared of anything. You think we worried about guys trying to muscle us and tough us out. We do that.”
Holloway’s Coaching Himself Into Bigger Opportunities: Young Superstar
Although Holloway is handling his business with St. Peter’s, the noise surrounding a possible move to his alma mater Seton Hall is becoming louder with each win.
Holloway was the talk of social media and even got a legendary endorsement as a great up-and-coming coach. Iona head coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino mentioned that he’d love to see Holloway at UMass, Pitino’s alma mater. But he also said Seton Hall should contact him right away if current coach Kevin Willard leaves for Maryland.
The Sweet 16 is nothing new for @PeacocksMBB head coach Shaheen Holloway 😤
— ESPN (@espn) March 20, 2022
“He’d be an awesome fit, awesome fit, they shouldn’t even make another call,” Pitino said. “And I don’t promote coaches for jobs too much. They should never hire search committees, they should ask coaches.
“But Shaheen’s a young superstar, I just love him to death. I think he would do a fabulous job at my alma mater and if Seton Hall opened. If I roll a seven tomorrow, I’ll get him here at Iona.”
Seton Hall May Be In Holloway’s Future: Willard Already Endorsed Him
Following Seton Hall’s opening round loss and St Peter’s surprising first round win, current Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, gave Holloway a ringing endorsement as the possible Pirates next head coach. Willard has been linked as the favorite to take over the Maryland program, and here’s what he said about his former assistant.
“I’ll be honest with you. If I’m not here next year, I’d love if Shaheen Holloway is here, that would be the happiest thing to happen to me,” Willard said.
AD Who Hired Holloway At St Peter’s Is Now At Seton Hall: It’s Only A Matter Of Time
When Holloway was hired by the Peacocks in 2018, then-athletics director Bryan Felt saw something in him. The two shared the same vision for the program. Felt has since become the athletics director of Holloway’s alma mater Seton Hall.
After watching what Shaheen has done at St. Peter’s it would be a natural fit for Felt to bring him back to the program if Willard in fact leaves.
The relationship between Felt and Holloway began at Seton Hall and grew when he hired him away from Willard’s staff four years ago. And it’s still very strong to this day.
“He had a good vision of what he wanted the place to be,” Holloway recalls about his time spent with Felt. “I had a vision of what I wanted to do, and I thought at the time, things clicked and now moving forward three years, we got a new administration in place, everybody is on the same goal. The goal is to make Saint Peter’s University and the athletic department the best place possible.”
Felt had rave reviews for Holloway after the Kentucky game.
“I am beyond thrilled. I am proud of the incredible job he’s done,” Felt told the Ashbury Park Press. “When I hired him, I knew what he could do, and to do that in a four-year span, where you could see the improvement, every year is amazing.
“Sha and I spoke late that night. He called me. Incredibly kind of him. He did not need to do that. We had a nice moment. It was touching.”
— Saint Peter's Men's Basketball (@PeacocksMBB) March 20, 2022
The expectancy is no matter what happens the rest of the way for St. Peter’s, if Willard leaves Seton Hall, Holloway will be a highly-touted candidate for next head coach of Seton Hall.