Shaheen Holloway/josh adams
You have to see Run Baby Run Arena, the home of the Saint Peter's Peacocks to believe how big an upset they pulled tonight over Kentucky. Even with a newly renovated gym, there are high school programs in Texas that would scoff at playing there. Located in the center of Jersey City, NJ there's not much to it. It used to have a leaky roof pre-renovation that would delay or cancel games. There's some student support but it's mostly a commuter school so it's not like kids are walking from their dorms to the game. The school itself is filled with working-class kids from Jersey City, Union City, and Hoboken. The PATH subway station is located nearby so there's not a lot of driving to campus. It's the antithesis of a leafy, land-grant university. When Shaheen Holloway stepped into the coach's role at St. Peter's he saw greatness. He had confidence that no matter the circumstance, there was going to be a winner playing at the Run Baby Run arena. It was the same type of vision he had when he turned down scholarships at Duke and Georgia Tech as one of the top high school point guards in the nation to stay in New Jersey and play his college ball at Seton Hall. His play for the Pirates propelled Seton Hall to the Sweet Sixteen in 2000. As he went into coaching, he kept local as well. He joined Kevin Willard's staff at Iona and then when Willard was hired by Seton Hall, Holloway followed him to his alma mater. When St. Peter's hired Holloway as their head coach in 2018 the vision was for the Peacocks not just to win but to put St. Peter's on the basketball map. Tonight, in front of a nationally televised audience on CBS, everyone knows about the small university in Jersey City. Mighty Kentucky, the #2 seed with a Hall-of-Fame coach in John Calapari stood in the way of the Peacocks' march to destiny. The Peacocks behind the shooting of Nutley, NJ-born Doug Edert managed to send the game into overtime and stunned the WIldcats by not just being satisfied with a moral victory but by taking the game over in the extra period and winning by 6, 85-79.
After the game, Holloway gave an all-time quote to CBS Reporter Jamie Erdahl. The confidence of a coach who never had a single doubt about the outcome of the game:
Today, Saint Peter's made basketball history. Sha Holloway's path from a high school player in Elizabeth, NJ to now one of the hottest coaching names in college hoops is complete. It had to happen in New Jersey. It couldn't have happened anywhere else. It was written in the scriptures. As St. Peter himself said, "What matters is not your outward appearance...but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle gracious kind God delights in."
The school, the gym, the players will never compete outwardly with Kentucky or the Duke. What matters most is what's going on inside of a small urban campus on a basketball floor in a tiny Division 1 gym. A vision from a coach that's gracious with his time and gentle with his knowledge. Holloway saw this happening as soon as he got hired. Now we all do too.