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Spirit of ’76 Back on Grounds

Coaches Terry Holland and Tony Bennett Matt Riley

During the 1975-76 regular season, the Virginia men’s basketball team went 0-6 against North Carolina State, Maryland and North Carolina. Four of those games were decided by three points or fewer. However, those setbacks would pave the way for a historic run in the ACC tournament a few months later.

“We had played well enough to think that we were a heartbeat away from being able to beat them,” recalls former coach Terry Holland.

In September, Virginia paid homage to the ’76 team as part of an All-Sports Reunion weekend in Charlottesville, drawing back more than 500 alumni athletes. Legend Wally Walker (Col ’76) was one of several former players on hand. Virginia also honored Holland, the winningest coach in school history.

“The ’76 team just had a lot of heart,” Holland says. “As we went down the stretch that year, we could tell we were getting better. We weren’t expected to win a game that year, much less compete for the ACC championship. But you could tell that our guys were preparing themselves to win, and of course that’s exactly what they did.”

The next season, Virginia lost to UNC in the ACC finals.

“We left that game thinking, ‘Man, we should have won two in a row,’” Holland says. “What we didn’t know was that there was going to be a long dry spell before there was another.”

The drought came to an end in Greensboro in 2014 when UVA, under Coach Tony Bennett, beat Duke for its second ACC title.

“I hope he’s going to get many more,” says Holland of Bennett. “I think he’s put together the kind of program that can do that.”