As the St. Peter's Peacocks were ushered into Walsh Gym on Thursday, all eyes stopped and stared. A moment of realization set in, and the crowd rose to their feet and applauded the team that put on the most magical March Madness run ever. The Peacocks have been the center of the sports world's attention since becoming the first 15 seed to reach the Elite 8.
However, the crowds were not there for them. The March heroes of KC Ndefo and Doug Edert took a back seat as their head coach Shaheen Holloway was introduced as the new head coach of Seton Hall.
With bombast, the Pirates reintroduced Holloway to the program with a press conference that packed their campus gym with fans, students, and alumni. After being introduced by Seton Hall's Associate Athletic Director Peter Long, Chair of Board of Regents Kevin Marino, University President Joseph Nyre, and Athletic Director Bryan Felt, Holloway gave a lengthy, impassioned speech to show Pirate fans he was here to perform.
His main sentiment: "I can't mess this up and I'm not going to mess this up. It's too important."
Holloway's Pirate pride runs so deep that the move felt somewhat inevitable and like a no-brainer for both sides. Rumors of his return to his alma mater began circulating after Kevin Willard, his predecessor, threw his name in the ring on his way out.
"It was probably the worst-kept secret in college basketball and maybe in the world," Felt said. "All signs pointed in the right direction. It wasn't too much pressure to seal it. I think we both knew once we talked. I've heard so many people say it's just kind of meant to be."
Felt, who was St. Peter's Athletic Director when he called on Holloway to be the Peacock's coach in 2018, felt that choosing Willard's successor was clear. No one owns Seton Hall like Holloway does.
"How do you say no to home?" the Pirates' newest head coach said. "It's home."
The four-year starter and a 1,600-point scorer as a Pirate has deep rooted loyalty to the program that made him who he is. His performances on the way to a Sweet 16 run in his senior year forever cemented his legacy as a Pirate a decade before he returned as an assistant coach in 2010.
Holloway said, "I said it in the press conference, and I'll say it again: I can't mess this up and I'm not going to mess this up. It's too important. When you're home, when you're here, it's a big difference. More time, more effort, more sweat, more tears. This is everything to me."
The blood that runs through the Holloway's veins is Pirate blue. Shaheen and his wife, Kim, met during their time at the university and named their son after the dorm they met in: Xavier. His daughter Shatanik also went to Seton Hall and graduated in 2018.
Holloway's grandmother played a huge role in his life. She passed just before St. Peter's Elite 8 game last Sunday and she will be buried in Pirate blue, per her request.
"She was the closest thing to God to me. She raised me. She raised my brother and my sister," Holloway said of his grandmother, Dorothy. "This would be everything to her."
For decades, the face of Seton Hall was a blue pirate. Now, the face of Seton Hall is the youthful, enthusiastic face of Holloway.
"It's a dream. I'm telling you, God is good."
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @brendanbalsamo.