Shaheen Holloway could not have written a better March: MAAC title. Elite Eight. New job in a high profile conference.
One of March Madness’ big stars returns home and returns to his roots in Seton Hall as the next head coach. As expected after weeks of rumours, the Big East school made it official on Wednesday, announcing that it has hired Holloway to replace Kevin Willard as its new head coach.
Holloway, 45, returns to South Orange – where he was a star player and successful assistant coach – after leading Saint Peter’s to a magical run into the Elite Eight and the MAAC school to its first three NCAA Tournament wins in the program history. †
When it became known that Willard was on his way to Maryland, it became clear that Holloway was the obvious successor. Willard campaigned for Holloway – moments after losing the Pirates’ NCAA Tournament to TCU – and so did former Seton Hall star Isaiah Whitehead.
Although the terms of the deal were not immediately known, Holloway is believed to be getting a significant raise. According to sources, he recently received a pay cut at Saint Peter’s due to financial constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that came after making about $300,000 per season. Willard earned a base salary of $2.4 million last season, sources said.
The school did not speak to any other candidate in the nine days between taking the job in Maryland and Willard hiring Holloway, a popular figure in New York City and New Jersey.
The composition of Holloway’s coaching staff is currently uncertain. He can keep Seton Hall assistant Grant Billmeier, if Billmeier doesn’t follow Willard to Maryland. Billmeier is also expected to be a candidate at Saint Peter’s, as is Holloway’s top assistant there, Ryan Whalen.
Rutgers assistant coach Brandin Knight, who will also be in the mix at Saint Peter’s, is Holloway’s cousin and could be joining him at Seton Hall. Another Saint Peter’s assistant, Rasheen Davis, will also join Holloway’s staff. Davis is an experienced assistant coach for The Bronx who has worked at VCU, Xavier, Manhattan, Arizona State and UMass.
Holloway and his staff will have to work quickly to assemble a team capable of returning to the NCAA tournament. Main contributors Myles Cale, Ike Obiagu, Bryce Aiken and Alexis Yenta are not eligible. Star senior Jared Rhoden has one year to go and may be convinced to return. Holloway was his primary recruiter coming out of high school. Three-star recruits Jaquan Sanders and Jaquan Harris make up the recruiting class, and four-star recruit Brandon Weston, who appeared as a freshman in just one game due to multiple injuries, is an intriguing piece for the future.
Holloway went from Queens to St. Patrick (now The Patrick School) to Seton Hall. He was the MVP of the 1996 McDonald’s All-American Game, a star-studded showcase featuring Kobe Bryant and Mike Bibby, and had a strong four-year career in South Orange. He helped the Pirates reach the Sweet 16 in 2000 – their last trip so far in the NCAA tournament.
During a seven-year professional career, Holloway played abroad in the Dominican Republic, Germany, Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Venezuela, in addition to the USBL in America.
Because he needed to be around to care for his daughter Shatanik, Holloway took up coaching. Starting in high school, he worked as an assistant coach at Bloomfield Tech, then took a job as an administrative assistant at Seton Hall under Bobby Gonzalez.
“It’s important to learn from the bottom up,” Holloway said recently. “You appreciate it more. You learn all aspects of the trade.”
His breakthrough came after one season at Seton Hall. Willard, then the new Iona College coach, was looking for an assistant coach with local connections. Spending the day with Holloway, he was convinced he was the right person because he talked so much about hard work, first as a player and now as a coach.
“I’ll never forget: I walked away and said this is a man who will work to be the best,” Willard said. “That’s what sold me more about ‘Sha’ than anything else.”
Together they rebuilt Iona and three years later they went to Seton Hall. Holloway stood by Willard’s side at his alma mater for eight years, helping to make the Pirates important again. Holloway was instrumental in developing several under-the-radar recruits into Big East stars, players like Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Myles Powell and Sandro Mamukelashvili.
He brought that ability to do more with less to Saint Peter’s, molding a team of unannounced and unrecruited prospects into an Elite Eight team. He led the Peacocks to three consecutive winning seasons, the school’s first time since 2004-06. Now he’s going back home to Seton Hall, where he won as a player and assistant coach.
Willard made the Pirates nationally relevant, reaching five of the last six NCAA tournaments. It’s Holloway’s job to continue Seton Hall on that path — and take the program deeper into March.