Seton Hall basketball vs. UConn: Historic moment for Shaheen … – Asbury Park Press
It’s hard to make history in Big East basketball, but on Wednesday, Shaheen Holloway and Dan Hurley are going to do it.
When 15th-ranked Connecticut plays at Seton Hall (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) it will mark the first time two former Big East players with the same alma mater will face off as Big East head coaches.
Hurley was a point guard at Seton Hall from 1991-96, and Holloway ran the point for the Pirates from 1996-2000.
“That’s pretty cool,” Holloway said. “That says something about the program and the school and the tradition.”
If anyone could have seen this coming, it would be Levell Sanders, who played alongside each guy in the Hall’s backcourt for two years and is now a college head coach himself at Binghamton.
But Sanders did not foresee this – for either of them.
“I think Sha thought he would play in the NBA and ride off into the sunset,” Sanders said via phone Monday. “I wouldn’t have thought Danny would be a coach. He was so against coaching. He would give the coaches a hard time – he was such a smart aleck.”
Both have achieved quite a bit on the sidelines. Hurley built Wagner and Rhode Island into winners and now has UConn back on the national stage.
“He runs a good program and his kids play hard as heck,” Holloway said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Holloway guided Saint Peter’s to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last season, perhaps the greatest Cinderella run in the Big Dance’s history. Sanders could see Holloway’s swagger in those Peacocks.
“(At Seton Hall) Sha gave the other players such confidence,” he said. “I had a lot more confidence playing with him because he was so confident.”
Seton Hall produced four current Division I men’s basketball coaches (the fourth is Donald Copeland at Wagner). Only Duke (nine), Princeton (six) and Indiana (five) boast more right now.
“Proud of the (Seton Hall) guys who are coaches,” Holloway said, adding that former Pirates Mark Bryant and Adrian Griffin are NBA assistants. “We’re looking forward to getting a couple more guys there.”
Sanders doesn’t think there’s a common thread, but in retrospect he recognizes the same seeds for Hurley and Holloway from their days in South Orange.
“Both of those guys were smart in terms of basketball IQ, so I can see why coaching comes naturally to them,” he said. “Both guys were leaders; people followed them because of their personalities. And they both were good communicators. They were talking all the time. Even when you didn’t want them to, they were still talking.”
Their meeting takes place at a crucial juncture. Connecticut, which started out 14-0 and rose to the No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25, is now 15-4 overall and 4-4 in the Big East. The Huskies are tied for fifth place with Seton Hall (11-8, 4-4), which has won three straight and appears to be jelling in Holloway’s first season.
Sanders is in touch with both former teammates. He’s friends with Holloway, and he’s on a group text chat with Hurley and members of their mid-90s Pirate squads. How much of their former college coaches does he see in them?
“I definitely see Coach (P.J.) Carlesimo in Danny, in terms of how demanding he is of his players,” said Sanders, who didn’t play for Carlesimo but was recruited by him. “I don’t really see Coach (Tommy) Amaker in Sha. Coach Amaker was more laid back in his demeanor. Sha is a lot more aggressive, almost like P.J.
“But what I see in Coach Amaker and Sha as the same: Coach Amaker didn’t care as much about offense; if you defended, he would give you a little grace in terms of shot selection and things like that. Sha is defensive-minded, and he gives his guys more freedom on offense.”
Although they’re different people, Sanders thinks Hurley and Holloway are pretty similar in their approach to coaching.
“They’re both defense-first, both really intense, both communicate well,” he said. “Their teams play hard as hell.”
There’s something else. Holloway never quite realized his NBA dreams, and Hurley never quite met outside expectations coming out of St. Anthony High School. Neither guy spends much time talking about his playing days with their teams. Sanders doesn’t either, but he believes Hurley and Holloway draw on one key aspect of those days.
“The things they learned as players that they now understand is, talent is not enough,” Sanders said. “That’s why those guys can relay those messages.”
Though Sanders is operating on a smaller stage than his former teammates, he’s also doing well. In his debut last winter he guided Binghamton to an 8-10 mark in the America East Conference, its best since 2009-10. So far this season the Bearcats are 3-1 in the league with a visit to Albany on tap Thursday. He’s been able to catch most Hall games and he’ll be glued to the screen Wednesday night, rooting for his alma mater of course.
About that group text chat? Hurley doesn’t chime in all that often, Sanders said, but he’ll get the messages.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of talk before the game, but after, it depends on how it goes,” he said. “It might be quiet – or we might be giving it to him.”
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at [email protected].