‘Disappointed’ Shaheen Holloway brushes off Seton Hall talk as Saint Peter’s run ends in NCAA men’s tournament

PHILADELPHIA — About an hour after the end of Saint Peter’s enchanting March Madness run against North Carolina on Sunday, coach Shaheen Holloway emerged from the Peacocks’ locker room. Walking to the team bus with his eldest son, Xavier, Holloway was wearing a backpack with an oversized yellow tube of Wet Ones sticking out of the open pocket on the left side of the bag.

The trappings of a return to reality surrounded him. The noise of the arena carts echoed through the aisles. St. Peter’s supporters snatched signs bearing the school’s name from the walls near the dressing room. The Peacocks’ escape into history had shifted to just that – history.

Holloway looked subdued, sporting the familiar awkward grimace he wore on the sidelines as he left the arena “really disappointed in myself” for not adjusting better in the game.

“I really thought we were going to win this game,” Holloway said. “I’ll be honest with you. No disrespect to them. I just thought we could take them on.”

After back-to-back thrilling victories over No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State, and No. 3 Purdue, Saint Peter’s at No. 15 couldn’t muster much of a fight against No. 8 North Carolina. The Tar Heels restored world order and advanced to their record 21st Final Four with an authoritative 69-49 victory.

Throughout that run, Holloway spoke of not wanting to wake up from the dream of Saint Peter’s becoming the first 15-seed in NCAA tournament history to reach the Elite Eight. Missing the Final Four, which was a ridiculous performance just two weeks ago, the Peacocks now left the arena into an uncertain future.

Holloway is considered a prohibitive favorite for the open job at Seton Hall. No other candidates were publicly identified in the search, and it’s expected across the industry that Holloway will be the coach at his alma mater next week.

When Holloway popped a question in his press conference that alluded to Seton Hall’s job, he brushed it aside, just as he had done for the past two weeks.

“I’m not worried about that at the moment,” he said. “I’m concerned for these 15 young men who are heartbroken and really down. It’s my job as their leader to cheer them up and make sure they understand what they’ve been up to for the past two weeks. And like I said, we’re going to walk out of here like we came in here, with our heads held high.”

The reality of Holloway’s future hasn’t escaped Saint Peter’s athletic director Rachelle Paul. Holloway’s ties to his alma mater run so deep that Xavier is named in part for the dormitory at Seton Hall where Holloway and his wife Kim met. Holloway also served there as assistant coach Kevin Willard for eight years before spending four seasons at Saint Peter’s.

Holloway earns nearly $266,000, according to the latest available tax documents. It’s not unrealistic to think he could earn nearly ten times that amount at Seton Hall.

“We honestly haven’t talked about it at all,” Paul told ESPN. “He was focused on his team and he was focused on the next game. These things move fast. And we will certainly have discussions about it. I’ll do what I can, whatever it is, I’ll do what I can.”

Amid the crushing emotions of defeat, Saint Peter’s officials, players and coaches tried to put the Elite Eight’s run into context. Saint Peter’s is a sober commuter school in Jersey City, New Jersey that has the lowest basketball budget in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Holloway was effusive in his praise for Saint Peter’s performance, as the school had never won an NCAA tournament game before.

“You shocked the world,” Holloway said. “You have people who will be remembered for things to tell their children and grandchildren. It’s a story within a story. I’m super proud of these guys. They came in and made history. Nobody did it.”

For Saint Peter’s, the final chapter of this NCAA run will always be one of disappointment. The Peacocks just didn’t play well as they missed open looks, got pushed around in the paint and couldn’t enforce the tempo with their pressure-based man-to-man defense. Saint Peter’s shot 30% from the field, had no response for UNC’s Armando Bacot (20 points and 22 rebounds) and struggled to close 6-foot-9 sniper Brady Manek (19 points on 7-for-11 shooting). guard.

“We expected to win this game,” said Saint Peter’s senior forward KC Ndefo. “I felt like we didn’t start as well as we should. This is a brotherhood and we love all our brothers.

And as the locker room emptied amid echoes and cool drafts, finality sank in.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Paul. “You should keep your head up. You made everyone proud. They had the whole country behind them. They were America’s team, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. ‘Disappointed’ Shaheen Holloway brushes off Seton Hall talk as Saint Peter’s run ends in NCAA men’s tournament

Joel McCord

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