Loss of Holland Is a Loss Felt Across Virginia and Beyond

Ken Cross

March 03, 2023 at 8:34 am.

Monday morning represented another classic feeling of loss since I have been living in Charlottesville, Va. recovering from my traffic accident over a year ago. I woke up to the story on that legendary Virginia basketball coach Terry Holland had passed away overnight while suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

The thoughts of Holland traced back to my trek through elementary and high school in rural Virginia as my brother and I grew up only an hour from Virginia Tech. The Virginia Cavaliers were the faves and the class and steadfastness of Holland exemplified our loyalty to the orange and blue.

Of course, Kevin, my brother, earned three degrees from the University of Virginia and had earned his doctor’s degree before I ever knew he was in a doctoral program.

Me? I would drive to Charlottesville for basketball and football games as I majored in the moving forward of both programs from back in the day.

I had other allegiances as well, as Sonny Smith of Auburn and Louisville’s Denny Crum sat on my Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches along with Holland.

Holland became potentially the best-known basketball coach in the history of the state, although Charlie Moir sat at Virginia Tech with JD Barnett (VCU), Tom Young (ODU) and Lou Campanelli (James Madison). Basketballs were dribbled immeasurably throughout the state in the 1980s.

The 16-year Virginia head coach was an immeasurable reason why we would drive across the state on weekends to see his Cavaliers match up with ACC rivals.

I remember the Elite Eight loss to Jim Valvano and NC State more than any as Kev and I had to get out of the house after absorbing the loss.

What did we do?

We went to the gym at Rural Retreat High School and worked on our shooting. We knew the roster by heart, so many times we would say a player’s name after making a shot. “Holland” was also expressed by both of us on several occasions before we left that gym that day.

Coach Holland took the Cavaliers to the Final Four in 1981 and 1985 after building back the basketball program at Davidson. He was called a North Carolinian who brought his style into Virginia. After I lived for 22 years in Charlotte, the same general things were said about bringing my “Virginia style” to the Carolinas.

Holland led Virginia to its first ACC Tournament title in 1976 when I was in the fifth grade. Lots of my friends tuned in to the game that Saturday evening because I had asked them to join in and pull for the Cavaliers. Virginia won the ACC final game over North Carolina and it felt like almost our entire group of students and teachers in the school were watching the game.

I had many students as well as my teachers ask me, “Well, why do you pull for that Virginia team over North Carolina?”

My answer was, “Coach Terry Holland” and then at 10 years old, I would give them a rundown on him, then-star Wally Walker, and what I had grown to know about the program from my father who earned his Master’s Degree in Charlottesville after four years at Emory & Henry.

College basketball has always been my favorite sport, and although I get totally involved with the NBA, NHL, NFL and college football, I assure you that Holland along with Smith and Crum made an impression on me that has never left.

Holland posted a 418-216 coaching ledger with both the Cavaliers and Wildcats that ended in 1990 when Virginia lost to Syracuse in the Final 32 of the NCAA Tournament in the Richmond Coliseum. My brother and I had both been to a Final 32 in Knoxville, Tennessee, on that Saturday and we got up early to go watch Virginia battle Syracuse.

Holland brought a consciousness of the game to people in Virginia and built his own brotherhood of basketball coaches that included Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, former Long Beach State/South Florida/Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg,  and longtime Wake Forest boss Dave Odom.

Former player and current ODU head coach Jeff Jones played and coached for Holland before taking over the program once Holland retired from coaching. Former Cavaliers guard Rick Carlisle led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA title in 2011, which was 25 years after he was a key role player with the Boston Celtics on their 1986 World Championship squad.

Holland later became an thletic director and solidified athletic departments at ECU, Davidson, and of course the University of Virginia.

Holland’s stature and appearance will continue to live with us. I think back to Ralph Sampson, Jeff Lamp, Lee Raker, Jeff Jones and Othell Wilson, among other players and I wonder what it would have been like to work with such a positive coach every day.

It’s been another tough week here as I came after my injury last February in the aforementioned traffic accident, but I have nothing on Holland, obviously, as he was literally the “Southern Gentleman” of the state of Virginia.