Holland accepted Virginia job on the spot, put Cavaliers basketball on the map

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Gene Corrigan had never met Terry Holland until the day he hired him as Virginia’s basketball coach in 1974.

Corrigan, the school’s athletic director, was searching for a coach to replace Bill Gibson, who left UVA for South Florida. After spending a month on his coaching search, Corrigan had narrowed his list to three candidates: Tom Davis, who had just led Lafayette to a win over Gibson’s Cavaliers in the NIT; Larry Brown, head coach of the ABA’s Carolina Cougars; and Holland, who was a three-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year at Davidson.

“Larry Brown had kept on me about the job for weeks,” Corrigan told this reporter in an interview in 2007. “I had tried to recruit Larry to Virginia when he was in high school at Hargrave Military Academy and he was supposed to come here, but went to North Carolina instead.

“Larry called me and said, ‘Coach Corrigan, there’s only two great jobs in America, Carolina and Virginia, and I’m your man,’” Corrigan recalled.

Corrigan asked Brown if he could come to Charlottesville the following Sunday. Holland was coming in for an interview on Saturday, and Davis on Monday.

“So, Terry showed up on that Saturday and I took him to meet (UVA president) Edgar Shannon on The Lawn,” said Corrigan, who passed away in 2020. “It was a great meeting.

“I remember Terry saying of Shannon, ‘That’s what the president of the University of Virginia ought to be like.’ I took him over to Ernie Ern’s, who was dean of admissions, so to be sure there weren’t any problems and he understood what we were all about academically. Coming from Davidson, Terry totally understood.”

The rest of the process was almost magical.

“Standing on The Lawn, I said to Terry, ‘Do you think you want the job?’” Corrigan remembered. “He said yeah, and I said, ‘Okay, it’s yours.’

“He said, ‘Just like that?’ and I said, ‘Just like that.’”

Corrigan said that Holland didn’t even ask him how much the job paid until after he came back to Charlottesville and moved into the head coaching office at University Hall.

The rest is history, as Holland took his first team in 1974-75 — captained by Andy Boninti and Dan Bonner — to a 12-13 record to Virginia’s first ACC Tournament championship in 1975-76 (captained by Wally Walker), with an 18-12 record.

By 1979-80, Holland had pulled off the greatest recruiting coup in Virginia history, signing the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ralph Sampson, who helped the Cavaliers reach the Final Four in 1980-81 and numerous national No. 1 rankings during his career.

Holland took the 1983-84 Cavaliers to the Final Four as well, and went on to become UVA’s winningest basketball coach in history until present coach Tony Bennett surpassed that win total this season.