Bennett on Holland’s passing: ‘It’s a sad day, I have the greatest respect for Coach Holland’

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo courtesy of the Holland family

Tony Bennett will never forget the first time he met Terry Holland.

Bennett was in his first year as head coach of Washington State in 2006 and was attending some spring basketball meetings at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. Little did he suspect that day that within a few years, he would take over the Virginia basketball program and eventually surpass Holland as UVA’s winningest coach.

“I was on the treadmill, and I was just thinking about this today, but Terry had a tennis racquet and was walking with someone to go play,” Bennett said Monday, hours after learning of Holland’s passing. “He came over and said, ‘Hey Tony, I really admire your father. Please tell him hello, and great job by you in your first year,’ and said something like, ‘I love defense.’

“I just remember the exchange, like what a nice gentleman. I remember calling my dad and saying, ‘Hey, I just met Terry Holland and that he sent his best to you.’ It was such a cool memory. That was Terry.”

Bennett’s father, Dick, the former coach at Wisconsin and at Washington State prior to Tony taking over the program, was a contemporary of Holland (both 80 years old).

“I know my dad felt the same about [Holland],” Bennett said. “I don’t know if they interacted a whole lot, but there was so much mutual respect, and how can you not love Terry for the person he is, and his family?”

When Bennett passed Holland on UVA’s all-time wins list this season, Bennett almost felt bad about the accomplishment, stating that he wished Holland could keep the record forever. That’s how much respect Bennett had for Holland.

In fact, Bennett has always gone out of his way to acknowledge Holland building the solid foundation of Virginia basketball, and has acknowledged Holland on several occasions, such as UVA’s ACC Tournament championship in 2014, the school’s first since Holland first did it in 1976.

“I don’t really know what’s being said, I just know that [Holland’s] daughters adored him and his wife loved him and I know it was hard at the end,” Bennett said in reference to Holland having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019. “Whenever I was around them, I know how he made me feel. The way he spoke to me about my father and the way he was, that was enough.

“I have zero doubt the impact he had on his young men’s lives and the legacy he left. I know there were guys before, but he established what Virginia basketball was. I just love the fact that I get to be at a place where he was one of the key establishers of putting it on the map and how he did it.”

Bennett said it was a sad day with Holland’s passing and he’s glad he had the opportunity to praise the former coach.

“The times I was around him, he just always made you feel good and peaceful, and you wanted to put your arm around him,” Bennett said. “You knew I’m gonna get a big hug. He just had that way about him.

“I have the greatest respect for him basketball-wise, but the more I came to know him, he and his wife, Ann, the more I loved them just as people.”

Holland also admired Bennett and shared with his wife, Ann, prior to the advancement of his disease, that he was happy for Bennett to become UVA’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach.