legacy: Winning with class
above by Dan Grogan, below courtesy of the Athletics Office
Terry Holland, there was no Virginia basketball,” said
college basketball analyst Billy Packer. Holland (above and
below) coached here for 16 seasons, starting in 1974,
winning a school-record 326 games. Below: Athletic Director
Holland congratulates 2000 Olympic swimming medalist Ed Moses,
then a U.Va. student.
By Dan Heuchert
When U.Va. sports fans settle into their seats at the
expanded Scott Stadium, or in the new John Paul
Jones Arena, they might take a moment to appreciate
Holland — and old nemesis Lefty Driesell.
Holland, the winningest men’s basketball coach in U.Va. history and later
director of athletics, announced in July that he would step down from his current
post as special adviser to University President John T. Casteen III at the end
of August, wrapping up three decades at U.Va.
It was a career that may not have happened were it not for Driesell.
Best known as the University of Maryland’s folksy basketball coach, Driesell
was the head coach at Davidson College when he made Holland, a Clinton, N.C.,
native, his first recruit. Holland helped Davidson to a top-10 national ranking,
but when graduation came, he was unsure about his future.
Driesell offered Holland a job as an assistant coach,
thinking it might help his future business career. “I didn’t really think of him as a coach,” Driesell
said. “I was trying to get him prepared to go to graduate school and be
Holland took the job, Davidson continued to win, and
he stayed another year, and another. “The more I did it, the more I thought, ‘I like doing
this now, and I’ll just do it as long as it’s fun,’” Holland
After five years, Maryland hired Driesell and Holland
took over at Davidson, where his teams continued
winning. When Virginia coach Bill “Hoot” Gibson
retired after the 1973-74 season, Driesell recommended Holland to then-U.Va.
athletic director Gene Corrigan.
Corrigan had three finalists. Holland got the first interview
and was hired on the spot. “That was one of the best hires I ever made in my life — anywhere,
anytime,” Corrigan said.
At the time, Virginia had been a member of the ACC for
21 seasons, but had posted just one winning season.
Many in the University community
believed that big-time
athletics and big-time academics could not coexist.
Holland wasn’t buying it. “When I came from Davidson to Virginia,
as restrictive as the academic requirements were, they weren’t as strict
as Davidson’s,” he said.
At the end of his second season, in March 1976, Holland
mollified the naysayers with “The Miracle of Landover.” Arguably a watershed moment in modern
athletics, the unheralded Cavaliers went into the ACC Tournament that month
and upset three nationally ranked teams on consecutive days to claim the school’s
first — and still only — conference championship.
not only showed U.Va. was a team to be reckoned with, it
also opened doors in
recruiting. Soon thereafter, Holland spirited Jeff Lamp and
Lee Raker out of Kentucky
to become the cornerstones of the rebuilding program. The
biggest “get” — literally — came
in May 1979, when 7-foot-4 Harrisonburg native Ralph Sampson announced he would
attend U.Va. The Cavaliers instantly became a
Holland “made the difference in my coming there,” said Sampson, now
living in Atlanta, where he runs a sports and education foundation for youth. “And
he made the difference in my staying all four years,” spurning
multi-million-dollar professional offers.
With Sampson as the three-time national player of the
year, the Cavaliers were consistently ranked in the
top 10 nationally.
The basketball team’s success brought much public
attention to the University. Applications soared. The rising
tide buoyed other ships in the athletic department,
too, noted former football coach George Welsh.
couldn’t recruit just on what happened in the football program,” said
Welsh, who came to Virginia in 1982. “The notoriety
during the Sampson years definitely helped us.”
Holland coached for 16 seasons, winning a school-record
326 games before stepping down to become the athletic
director at Davidson
Nine of his former
assistant coaches and players went on to become
head coaches in the college or professional ranks.
don’t think that’s an accident,” said University of South
Carolina head coach Dave Odom, a former Holland assistant who still talks with
him weekly. “Not that we as a group of coaches were that talented, but
we were put into a position to learn to be head coaches by Terry. … There
was never a question about his desire to see us grow.”
Holland also served as a mentor for Craig Littlepage,
who was an assistant coach, then an assistant
returned to Virginia
as athletic director in 1995.
of the things I keep with me is the level of professionalism
with which he went about his job every day,” said Littlepage, who succeeded Holland as
athletic director in 2001. “The nickname ‘Virginia Gentleman’ is
apt and very appropriate.”
Many of Holland’s colleagues say it wasn’t
just winning that made Holland special, but how he won.
He earned a reputation for integrity, both inside
and outside the University. He suspended star players who
got into trouble; spoke his mind, politely, on controversial
issues; and insisted that his players go
think his legacy is of real integrity,” said D. Alan Williams, U.Va.’s
faculty athletic representative from 1967 to 1999. “With Terry, you have
to start with … his sense of what’s right and what’s
not, and how it fits in a university.”
was a great basketball coach, but an even better person,” said longtime
Cavalier women’s basketball coach Debbie Ryan. “He’s so respected — respected
as honest, true, very reliable and dependable. He’s
like the dean of college coaches.”
Holland’s tenure as U.Va.’s athletic director was also successful.
He oversaw the $86 million expansion of Scott Stadium, and the construction of
the Aquatic & Fitness Center, the Sheridan Snyder Tennis
Center, and the University Hall Turf Field.
He hired several current coaches,
including football coach Al Groh
basketball coach Pete Gillen.
In 1998-99, Virginia placed eighth — its best finish ever — in
the Directors Cup, which measures program-wide performance
in national championship
Holland’s crowning achievement, however, is rising
across the street from University Hall: a new basketball
arena. Plans to replace U-Hall have been on
the boards since the Sampson years. Holland firmed them
up, then stepped aside as athletic director to help raise
funds to make them a reality.
The John Paul Jones Arena will
open in 2006. “It’s so close to being
done,” Holland said. “I certainly want to be
around when it opens and go see games in it.”
Holland says that when he
left the athletic directorship — voluntarily
trading a third of his salary for a one-third reduction in workload — he
thought he would ease toward retirement. But, at age 62, he found he’s
One involvement that will
continue is Holland’s
advocacy for college
reform. He speaks passionately
about changing game schedules
class time, rewarding
fit their overall academic
in order to
get established academically. “But nobody’s
listening to me,” he said.
Otherwise, Holland’s plans for the future remain up in
the air. He may do some commentary on college basketball broadcasts;
he would consider taking
another coaching job or athletic directorship, either on
an interim or full-time basis.
“I’m going to take this year to listen — is there a five- to seven-year
project that I need to at least consider,” he said.
And how would Holland
like to be remembered?
did my job,” he said. “You know, it’s like Frank McCue said
the year we won the ACC Tournament. He said, ‘Everybody’s making
such a big deal out of it. Hell, that’s what we hired him for.’”