Legendary Virginia basketball coach Terry Holland passes away at age 80

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: University of Virginia

Virginia lost a legend on Sunday when Terry Holland died peacefully after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease.

Holland, 80, was not only UVA’s winningest basketball coach until recently surpassed by Tony Bennett, but also served as director of athletics from 1994 to 2001. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2019, shortly after moving back to Charlottesville with wife, Ann, who was by his side when he passed.

Holland was hired as Virginia’s basketball coach on April 1, 1974, by Gene Corrigan, and put the Cavaliers on the college basketball map during a career that spanned 16 seasons.

He led UVA to a record of 326-173, including two Final Four appearances (1981 and 1984), an NIT championship (1980) and the program’s first ACC Tournament championship (1976). He was also Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year on two occasions, to go along with his three Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors at Davidson prior to coming to UVA.

It was Holland who hauled in Virginia’s greatest recruit in program history, luring 7-foot-4 high school phenom Ralph Sampson to Charlottesville. Sampson, who grew up in nearby Harrisonburg, was the nation’s No. 1 prospect and chose UVA over Kentucky, North Carolina and Virgina Tech.

Sampson went on to become a three-time consensus national player of the year and later was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Virginia’s program rose to greatness during Sampson’s four-year career, climbing to No. 1 in national polls and remaining there for much of that span.

Holland, who grew up in Clinton, N.C., was a standout basketball player who was recruited to Davidson College by legendary coach Lefty Driesell. After graduating in 1964, he remained at Davidson and became Driesell’s assistant coach, then succeeded Driesell, who left for Maryland.

Prior to the 1990 season, Holland shocked Virginia fans, announcing he would step down at the end of the year. While he had conversations that could have led to coaching jobs at other universities, Holland instead chose to move into athletic administration and became athletic director at Davidson, his alma mater.

While at Davidson, he oversaw the school’s move back into the Southern Conference and reorganized the school’s athletic fundraising arm, increasing the budget from $350,000 to $1,000,000. 

By 1995, Holland returned to Charlottesville to take over as UVA’s athletic director and made a lasting legacy in improving facility expansion, including the $86-million expansion of Scott Stadium and creation of the Carl Smith Center; the creation of the Aquatics and Fitness Center (home of UVA’s swimming and diving teams); expansion of University Hall Turf Field; the Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center and The Park, home of the softball team, which has since been replaced.

Holland was also instrumental in the creation of John Paul Jones Arena, which replaced University Hall as the home of Virginia basketball. It was one of Holland’s goals in life to bring a new basketball facility to Grounds. While he left UVA to pursue a similar post at East Carolina University prior to the completion of JPJ, Holland had great influence on the new arena.

In 2004, Holland officially became ECU’s AD, and within a year had replaced head coaches of both the school’s major sports, hiring Skip Holtz as football coach and former UVA player Ricky Stokes as basketball coach. He also beefed up ECU’s schedules, adding games against ACC opponents.

He also improved facilities, including the expansion of Dowdy Ficklen Stadium to 50,000 seats.

In 2006, Holland also assumed the additional role as executive assistant to the Chancellor at ECU, and held both positions until he decided to retire in 2012. He did assume the role of emeritus director of athletics until he fully retired. The school named its Olympic Sports Complex in Holland’s honor.

The Holland’s returned to Charlottesville for a final time in 2018 and moved into a retirement village, which also included a memory-care facility, which he transitioned to after his Alzheimer’s progressed.

The Holland’s have two daughters, Ann-Michael and Kate, and two grandsons, Holland and Shark Baynard, as well as a granddaughter, Eliza-Grey.

JerryRatcliffe.com will have more coverage of Holland’s career throughout the day, including a recent interview with wife, Ann; how Holland came to Virginia; reactions from former players and coaches; and Holland’s last interview from 2018.