Saint Peter’s hires Mason to replace Holloway

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Saint Peter’s has hired Jersey City native Bashir Mason to replace Shaheen Holloway as the coach of the Peacocks.

Holloway left Saint Peter’s a day after his team was eliminated in the Elite Eight by national runner-up North Carolina to return to Seton Hall, his alma mater. Saint Peter’s was the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight. The Peacocks won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament and went 22-12 with wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.

This is also a homecoming for Mason, who spent the past 10 years at Wagner College on Staten Island.

Athletic director Rachelle Paul announced the hiring Tuesday without giving details of the contract to coach at the small Jesuit university. He will be introduced at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are excited to welcome Bashir Mason to the Peacock family,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, president of the university. “He is the perfect choice to lead our men’s basketball team with a proven track record in Division I athletics. We are thrilled to have his leadership and expertise to guide our student-athletes as we build upon the success of our program. I am confident that he will take us to new heights.”

Mason faces some immediate issues at Saint Peter’s. Backup guard Doug Edert has said he is transferring to Bryant. Starters Matthew Lee and Daryl Gates III have entered the transfer portal.

The 38-year-old Mason led Wagner to three Northeast Conference (NEC) regular-season titles, posting a 165-130 record. He is the second coach in the conference’s 40-year history to win three Jim Phelan Coach of the Year honors during that time.

The Seahawks posted a 21-6 record this past season and appeared in the NEC title game. Wagner’s 15 conference wins matched the most in program history.

The Seahawks have appeared in the NIT three times under Mason.

Mason was the youngest head coach at the Division I level when he was hired by Wagner in 2012. He had been an assistant with the Seahawks for two seasons under current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

Mason is no stranger to the MAAC, arriving at Wagner after spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Marist. He began his coaching career at his high school alma mater, St. Benedict’s Prep of Newark, under Hurley. He played collegiately at Drexel, leading the Dragons in assists and steals in all four of his seasons.

Shaheen Holloway leaves Saint Peter’s for Seton Hall


Shaheen Holloway is leaving Saint Peter’s for Seton Hall just days after helping the little Jesuit school make history by becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

Seton Hall athletic director Bryan Felt announced the hiring of the 45-year-old early Wednesday evening. It really wasn’t a surprise.

Holloway played for the Pirates of the Big East Conference and his move to replace Kevin Willard has been a hot topic since the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Willard left last week for the head job at Maryland.

Holloway, whose Peacocks knocked off No. 2 seed Kentucky. No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 seed Purdue before falling to North Carolina, will get a substantial raise. Willard earned $2.4 million last season, about tenfold what Holloway got at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Confernece school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Holloway, whose teams play a hard-nosed game trademarked by defense, will be introduced at a campus press conference on Thursday.

“Life has a way of coming full circle,” Holloway said in a statement. “This is certainly a full circle moment for my family and I. Seton Hall is near and dear to my heart; it’s where I became a man, where I met the love of my life, where I spent countless hours honing my crafts as a basketball player and a basketball coach. To say that I’m excited to get started as the head men’s basketball coach at Seton Hall University would be an understatement.”

Holloway led the Peacocks to a run of three consecutive top-three finishes in the MAAC, a first for the program since the school’s first three seasons in the conference in the early 1980s. They won the MAAC Tournament to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. The program was 64-57 under his lead, including 22-12 in 2021-22.

Prior to Saint Peter’s, Holloway helped build a foundation at Seton Hall that turned it into a program that competes for NCAA Tournament bids and Big East championships on a yearly basis. In eight seasons as associate head coach under Willard from 2010-18, the Pirates experienced a multitude of success both on and off the court.

Holloway also was on Willard’s staff at Iona, where they turned the Gaels’ program around. They transformed a 2-28 team in 2006-07 into a 21-win team in 2009-10.

Holloway was a four-year standout at Seton Hall from 1996-2000 and helped lead the team to the 2000 NCAA Sweet 16. He hit the winning layup in overtime to defeat Oregon in the first round.

The New York City holds the Pirates’ record with 681 career assists and was inducted into the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

Holloway becomes the first Seton Hall graduate to lead the men’s basketball program since 1953 graduate Richie Regan led the Pirates from 1960-70.

“I am incredibly excited to welcome Shaheen Holloway and his family home to Seton Hall,” athletic director Bryan 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.”

Willard recommended Holloway succeed him after the Pirates were beaten by TCU on March 18 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

After NCAA run, Saint Peter’s will always have the memories

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Saint Peter’s unexpected and uplifting run to the Elite Eight ended with a bus ride back to New Jersey and the unsettling prospect Shaheen Holloway might have coached his last game for Peacocks.

“To be honest, it was amazing to me,” forward Hassan Drame said of the experience in the student center on Monday. “Overall, it was an amazing season and something that we’re going to look back on, and forever where we go we have this story to tell people.”

It was a great story. A little Jesuit university in Jersey City, making just its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2011. A program that had never won a game in The Show, knocking off perennial powerhouses Kentucky and Purdue and a very good Murray State squad to become the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight.

The feel-good story of the NCAA Tournament ended Sunday as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champions were blown out 69-49 by North Carolina.

All the players on the team are eligible to return.

“At this point, we don’t know what the future hold for us,” Drame said. “But, you know, we are always proud to be Peacocks.”

Jersey City is also proud. Mayor Steven Fulop said Monday a parade will be held on Friday afternoon to honor the team and keys to the city will be given out.

The major question mark is Holloway. The 45-year-old coach is a former Seton Hall player and that job opened a week ago when Kevin Willard accepted the top job at Maryland. Willard was making roughly $2.4 million coaching at the Big East Conference school in nearby South Orange.

While his salary at Saint Peter’s has not been disclosed, Holloway is believe to be getting less than $300,000 annually.

“We don’t know nothing about that tactic,” Fousseyni Drame, Hassan’s twin and a fellow forward, said of Holloway’s future. “Nobody knows what the future holds.”

Holloway, university president Eugene Cornacchia and athletic director Rachelle Paul were not on campus Monday. Paul did not return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Holloway’s future.

Around campus, life seemed to be returning to normal. There were only a couple of television crews and few reporters. Freshman Jamie Troutman of New Haven Connecticut, said the tournament success united the community.

“It was nice seeing everybody come together to celebrate something so big and making history,” the psychology major said.

Jennifer Dang, a freshman from Middlesex, New Jersey, said while it was sad seeing the team lose Sunday, she said the watch parties on campus made everyone feel like they were at the games.

“No one really knows where Saint Peter’s is. No one really knows where Jersey City is,” she said. “But we’re known across the country, so in the aftermath of the game, it’s sad we didn’t make it to the Final Four but at least we made it somewhere in history.”

Freshman Itchela Alexandre of Orange, New Jersey, enjoyed seeing players who are her friends succeed.

“I’m definitely proud of the boys,” she said. “They made it far, regardless of where we ended or how we started. They made it really far.”

Furlop said the team had all the attributes of the city.

“I think everyone across the country identified with this team,” he said. “They didn’t get a lot of recognition. There were not highly recruited and they came together. They were the little engine that could, knocking off all these big powerhouses.”

On Monday, Mark McIntyre and his son, Matthew, were on campus taking a picture of a donor sign on the wall near a cafe. They had been in New York City on Sunday for a Nets’ NBA game and decided to take a look at Saint Peter’s after seeing the Peacocks in the tournament.

“We wanted to come by the campus and get a tee-shirt or hoodie and they are all sold out, crazy,” Mark McIntyre said. “It’s all because of the Elite Eight run, that’s why we’re here.”

When McIntyre speaks, it’s with an audible drawl. Home is Rogersville, Alabama. The script A on his stocking cap is another giveaway. McIntyre was caught off guard by the size of the university with an undergraduate enrollment of just 2,100 students.

“There’s not much to it,” he said. “It blows me away. We came here for the gear. But this is it?”

This year, size didn’t matter at all to Saint Peter’s.

North Carolina crushes Saint Peter’s, will meet Duke in Final Four

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — North Carolina crushed all hope of a March Madness miracle in the early going Sunday, getting 20 points and 22 rebounds from Armando Bacot in a wire-to-wire 69-49 runaway over 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s.

The eighth-seeded Tar Heels (28-9) made their record 21st Final Four, and next on their list is none other than archrival Duke and its soon-to-be-retiring coach, Mike Krzyzewski.

Next Saturday in New Orleans will mark the first Final Four meeting – first NCAA Tournament meeting, in fact – between the Tobacco Road archrivals whose campuses are separated by 11 miles.

While Coach K’s winding road to retirement has been a beauty to watch this March, nothing has captured more imaginations than the run put on by underdog Saint Peter’s. The entire basketball budget for this scrappy group from Jersey City, New Jersey, is $1.6 million – or around $400,000 less than what Tar Heels first-year coach Hubert Davis, who was sobbing as his players enveloped him after the buzzer, makes in a year.

Two nights earlier, the Peacocks (21-12) beat Purdue to become the first 15 seed to advance to an Elite Eight. They are hardly the first team to see grand plans undone by one of the country’s top-line power programs.

It got ugly early.

After Carolina’s Leaky Black missed a free throw 2 1/2 minutes in, Bacot edged in for the offensive rebound and an easy putback. It gave Carolina a 7-0 lead. In its three tournament wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, Saint Peter’s had never trailed by more than six.

The Peacocks, whose 10-game win streak ended, moved the ball well and got plenty of good looks over the first 10 minutes. Some shots went halfway down and rimmed out. Others bounced twice on the iron but wouldn’t fall. They trailed 21-7 after missing their first six shots, and 16 of their first 19.

Late in the first half, Daryl Banks III swooped in for what looked like a windmill jam. It got rejected – by the front of the rim. It made the Peacocks 5 for 27 on the night, and when Bacot dunked on the next possession, North Carolina led 36-15.

Fousseyni Drame led Saint Peter’s with 12 points and KC Ndefo had 10.

The weekend before, North Carolina had taken a 25-point lead against Baylor only to see it all melt away before pulling the game out in overtime. The turning point there came when Brady Manek got ejected for throwing an inadvertent elbow. Manek finished this game on the sideline, too – watching garbage time from the bench after scoring 19 points.

It was an emotional evening for Davis, who replaced Roy Williams, the coach who took the Tar Heels to five Final Fours over 18 years. Now the 51-year-old Davis joins the likes of Ray Meyer, Steve Fisher and Denny Crum as rookies to reach the sport’s biggest stage.

Were it not for Saint Peter’s, maybe North Carolina would be the underdog story of this tournament. Way back when, in 1985, another 8 seed shocked the world. It was Rollie Massimino’s 1985 Villanova team.

Then again, these are the Tar Heels. They’ve been playing as well as anyone for more than a month.

When they put a 94-81 beatdown on Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5, it cast a cloud over what was supposed to be a celebration of Coach K’s final home game. On Sunday, they wrecked another of those so-called “perfect” story lines.

But this is more than a consolation prize for college hoops: Next, UNC and Duke meet for the 258th time – and never with the stakes so high.