Terry Holland coaching UVA Athletics

Terry Holland, who put Virginia basketball on the national map during a 16-year coaching career, then led the athletic department through a period of major growth as athletics director, died Feb. 26 at age 80 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Holland came to Virginia in 1974 from Davidson College to take over a basketball program that had managed just three winning seasons in the previous 21 years. His team won the ACC tournament in 1976 and rose to national prominence after Holland signed 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson (Col ’83), the nation’s most sought-after high school recruit, in 1979.

The Cavaliers reached the Final Four in 1981 and 1984, the Elite Eight in 1983 and 1989, and made nine NCAA Tournament appearances overall during Holland’s tenure. The Cavaliers also won the National Invitation Tournament championship, in 1980. Holland retired from coaching in 1990 with 326 wins, the most in school history to that point. (The record stood until it was broken by current coach Tony Bennett, who won his 327th game at UVA this January.)

Bennett credited Holland with laying the foundation for his own success at UVA.

“I know there were guys before, but he established what Virginia basketball was,” Bennett said.

Holland also provided an example of what Virginia athletics could be. His teams were the first to enjoy consistent success on a national level, proving that Cavalier teams could compete with the best without compromising academic integrity.

“It’s interesting to see, in the years that followed, how some of the other programs started to ascend in terms of competitiveness, whether it was soccer, women’s basketball, or football,” said Craig Littlepage, who coached under Holland and later succeeded him as athletics director.

“Those that might have been critics of quote ‘big-time’ athletics could see that success can be had, and it doesn’t have to come at the expense of the academic traditions and the academic stature of the University.”

Holland retired from coaching to become athletics director at Davidson, his alma mater, in 1990. He returned to UVA as athletics director in 1995.

During his six-year tenure in that role, Holland oversaw an $86 million expansion of Scott Stadium and construction of the Aquatics and Fitness Center, among other improvements. In 1999, UVA finished eighth, its highest finish to that point, in the Sears (now Learfield) Directors’ Cup, an all-sports competition among Division I schools. UVA did not finish as high again until 2009.

Holland resigned as athletics director in 2001 to serve as special assistant to President John T. Casteen (Col ’65, Grad ’66, ’70), charged with raising funds for John Paul Jones Arena, a $131 million project. He stepped down in 2004, after ground was broken on the arena, which opened in 2006.

Holland served as athletics director at East Carolina University, in his home state of North Carolina, from 2004 to 2013.

Born in Clinton, North Carolina, in 1942, Holland was recruited to play basketball at Davidson by coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell. A standout student, Holland planned to attend business school at the University of North Carolina after graduation, but Driesell convinced him to join his staff as an assistant coach, he said.

When Driesell left to coach at the University of Maryland in 1969, Holland succeeded him at Davidson.

As a coach, the 6-foot-7 Holland cut a cerebral, gentlemanly figure on the sidelines. But beneath that courtly exterior, he was fiercely competitive, says Jeff Jones (Col ’82), who played for Holland and later succeeded him as coach at UVA.

“He was demanding, but I think his greatest strength was his flexibility, and his willingness to adapt and put players in positions to be successful,” Jones said.

Littlepage said Holland’s success as a coach gave him instant credibility when he returned to UVA as athletics director.

“’What he excelled at was the ability to think strategically about the needs of the athletic program. And then articulate those needs to persuade different stakeholders and different constituencies, whether internal or external to the University.

“Among other things, Terry was probably the prominent ambassador for athletics throughout the community.”

Jones said he regards Holland as the person most responsible for putting not just Virginia basketball, but the entire athletic department, on the national map.

 “If ever there was going to be a statue honoring anybody in UVA athletics, he’s the person,” Jones said.

Holland, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2019, is survived by his wife, Ann; daughters Ann-Michael Holland (Col ’97) and Kate Baynard; and three grandchildren.