Three days after Saint Peter's magical NCAA Tournament ride ended, their head coach is moving from Jersey City to South Orange.
As expected, 45-year-old coach Shaheen Holloway has decided to leave the little Jesuit school and travel less than 20 miles to take the much higher-paying job at Seton Hall, his alma mater.
The Roman Catholic Big East Conference school paid Kevin Willard roughly $2.4 million this past season. He left to take the head job at Maryland. Holloway made less than $300,000 at Saint Peter's.
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Willard said he was "ecstatic" for Holloway, and that he "can't think of a better person to take over the program."
"Shaheen's hard work and determination helped build the foundation of our program and that led to multiple NCAA Tournament appearances and a Big East championship. He bleeds Blue and White, and I have no doubt that he will succeed," Willard said.
Holloway played for the Pirates from 1996-2000, helping lead the team to the Sweet Sixteen his senior year. During that run, he hit a game-winning layup in overtime to defeat Oregon in the first round.
He ranks 18th all-time in program history with 1,588 points and also recorded 231 steals (fourth all-time) and hit 185 three-pointers (eighth all-time) in 116 games. He was named the Big East's Most Improved Player his senior season.
Seton Hall Director of Athletics Bryan Felt announced Holloway's decision to join the school Wednesday. The new head coach will be introduced at a press conference at the school on Thursday.
"I am incredibly excited to welcome Shaheen Holloway and his family home to Seton Hall," Felt said. "Shaheen is a winner in every sense of the word, and he is not only an incredible coach, but also an incredible educator of young men. He works tirelessly to put his student-athletes in a position to succeed, and he makes them believe that they can achieve anything with hard work and determination. That is evidenced by his historic NCAA Tournament run this month."
But losing Holloway doesn't mean the mayhem has stopped for Saint Peter's President Eugene Cornacchia.
“I’ve talked to Shaheen, but it’s only been about to congratulate him and to tell him how grateful we are for what he’s done," Cornacchia said Wednesday. "We’re focused on just having a blast on Friday.”
Campus bookstores and suppliers can't keep up with the demand for Peacocks' merchandise. Plans for a parade Friday to honor the team and coaches in Jersey City, New Jersey, keep getting bigger and bigger.
Cornacchia said the past two weeks have been a hectic blur, and it was only a day or so ago he had a chance to consider the Peacocks' improbable run to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight. It ended Sunday with a one-sided loss to North Carolina.
“I had hoped for a successful season with this team and a good outcome of the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) championship,” he said. “We got that, but I could never have envisioned that we would do what we did. As much as you believe in your team and all, you don’t really believe it’s possible until it happens.”
Cornacchia said the school has been swamped with requests from around the country for merchandise. He even got a letter from somebody in Australia who saw the team on television.
“I don’t even know how that works, how they saw it over there, but all around the world now, people know Saint Peter’s University,” Cornacchia said. “So this is an extraordinary moment, not only for our athletic program, but for the university. I tell everybody we’re going to ride this and we’re going to build on it."
Cornacchia had some tangible returns on what the wins over No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 7 seed Murray State did for the university the first week of the tournament. That was before an upset of No. 3 seed Purdue in the Sweet 16.
Applications were up 56% compared to the same time in 2021 and contributions rose from $500,000 for the corresponding week to roughly $2 million, Cornacchia said, adding he has not even reached out to some long-time donors.
The plans don't stop there. Cornachhia wants to reach out to his other coaches and see what the university can do to help them. He also has a telephone call planned with MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor about getting Saint Peter's a bigger share of money resulting from playing in four NCAA Tournament games.
The NCAA gives the money to the conference and then the league splits it among member institutions, following a set formula. Cornacchia wants a little extra for his school because it paid for ancillary staff members to attend the game, such as school communications workers. He is not worried about being fairly compensated. The league might receive as much as $8 million from the NCAA, to be paid over six years, he said.
The bigger problem will be keeping up with Saint Peter's merchandise.
“We sold out everything and we’ve been repeatedly selling out things,” Cornacchia said. “We keep ordering more and more and more. And we just can’t keep up with the demand. It’s just been extraordinary.”
So was the run.