On Monday Maryland announced that they have hired Kevin Willard to be their new men’s basketball head coach. That ended months of speculation of Willard to College Park, as highlighted back in February. Willard made Seton Hall a contender in the Big East again during his twelve seasons in South Orange, especially over the past seven of those seasons. But now, for the first time since 2010, the Pirates need a new head coach. I could write about a bunch of different guys that could be candidates for this job, but there is one that stands clearly above the rest and is an absolute no-brainer: Shaheen Holloway. This really should be the easiest coaching search ever for Seton Hall Athletic Director Bryan Felt. Don’t get “cute” with it, don’t overthink it. Just do it.
Shaheen Holloway Is A No-Brainer For Seton Hall
Holloway Gets The Job Done
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week then you know who Saint Peter’s Peacocks head coach Shaheen Holloway is. He has led his Peacocks to the Sweet Sixteen by way of big upsets over Kentucky and Murray State. They are only the tenth 15 seed to beat a 2 seed and are only the third to ever make it to the second weekend. The Peacocks have done all of that despite having one of the smallest basketball budgets in Division 1 and what is arguably the hardest coaching job in the MAAC.
To give you an idea of just how small their basketball budget is, it is one-fifth on Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s salary. The entire athletics budget at Saint Peter’s is still less than what Calipari makes. And yet they beat him. Given that information, one could make an argument that it was the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. It is definitely one of them.
This is a vastly different team than the one that lost to a bad Siena team a month ago. Holloway has turned this Peacocks team around in the past month and has them dancing deep into March.
Holloway had done a good job at Saint Peter’s even before this year. In 2020 he led the Peacocks to an 18-9 record and a second-place finish in the MAAC. That earned him MAAC Coach Of The Year honors. The team would have had a chance to make it to the tournament if it hadn’t been canceled. This year they finished second in the conference again, but won the MAAC tournament title, getting the Peacocks for the first time since 2011 and only the fourth time in school history. Saint Peter’s is also the first team from New Jersey to make it to the Sweet Sixteen since 2000 Seton Hall. Who was the point guard on that team? Holloway was.
It is also important to add that he has done this without any touted recruits. Not a single player on Saint Peter’s’ roster this year was ranked as a recruit coming out of high school. That didn’t stop KC Ndefo from winning his third straight MAAC Defensive Player Of The Year award. Nor did it keep the Peacocks from beating the now second-winningest program of all-time in Kentucky en route to the Sweet Sixteen, becoming the first MAAC to ever do that. To beat a McDonald’s All-American-filled team like Kentucky with that is super impressive just by itself.
From Peacock To Pirate
Holloway played for Seton Hall from 1996-2000. He won multiple awards during those four years and had that Sweet Sixteen run as a senior. He then played in the pros. After his playing career was over he got into coaching. He spent his first three years as an assistant coach at Iona. Then in 2010, he became an assistant at his alma mater Seton Hall when new head coach Kevin Willard was hired. He was an assistant there until 2018 when he got the head coaching job right next door in Jersey City at Saint Peter’s.
It is worth mentioning that hiring a former player does not always work out. There are two big examples of that with some Big East rivals of theirs. One is what Georgetown is currently going through with Patrick Ewing, and the other is the failed Chris Mullin tenure at St. John’s. But of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t work out. That is just something that will surely be on at least a few fans’ minds. I personally think it could go very well.
Holloway is from Queens and has grown up, played, and coached in that New York/New Jersey area for most of his life. So he knows the area very well. He knows how to recruit there. And, most importantly, he knows how to win.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images