Virginia and college athletics royalty assembled in John Paul Jones Arena Saturday afternoon to commemorate former Virginia men’s basketball coach Terry Holland’s life, share fond memories and celebrate his many achievements. Holland passed away in late February at the age of 80 after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The ceremony was preceded by a performance from Grammy-award-winning pianist Bruce Hornsby before three-time Naismith National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson welcomed the crowd to the memorial service. Sampson played for Holland at Virginia from 1979-1983, winning an NIT championship, making an Elite Eight and Final Four appearance and leaving Virginia as the first overall NBA draft pick.
Sampson welcomed Holland’s family as they entered the arena and addressed the crowd, drawing on anecdotes from the two’s “lifelong friendship.” Sampson then welcomed current Virginia men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett for opening remarks.
“Thank you for what you’ve done for Virginia basketball,” Bennett said. “It’s such an honor to follow in ‘Coach’s’ footsteps.”
Bennett recently surpassed Holland’s top spot on the all-time Cavalier basketball win leaderboard. Holland accumulated 326 of his 418 career wins at Virginia. Bennett cited a through line between the two coaches in their shared faith, quoting scripture and sharing his enthusiasm to one day rejoin Holland and discuss “good, hard-nosed, man-to-man defense.”
Bennett then yielded the microphone to Holland’s daughters Kate Baynard Holland and Ann-Michael Holland. The pair shared memories of their father, discussing their extended Virginia basketball family they grew up with. The rest of the ceremony exemplified Holland’s extension of family to those he coached, worked with and advised throughout his career.
Seth Greenberg, Holland’s former assistant at Virginia and current ESPN analyst, then took the stage to moderate conversations and tributes from a star-studded array of former players and associates from Holland’s life. Companions from Davidson and East Carolina discussed Holland’s time at each institution. Holland attended, played for and then coached at Davidson from 1960-74 before returning to serve as athletic director from 1990-94. He performed the same role for East Carolina from 2004-2012.
“Davidson joins you all in gratitude for the life of Terry Holland,” former Davidson president John Kuykendall said. “We remember the rock from which he was hewn.”
Friends from across Holland’s illustrious career discussed his forward-thinking, out-of-the-box approach to coaching and directing that led to so much of his success.
Val Ackerman, former Virginia women’s basketball player, WNBA president and current Commissioner of the Big East Conference, credited Holland for his support of gender equity in basketball “long before that was in vogue.” Former East Carolina football coach Ruffin McNeill shared the story of his hiring as the first black coach in East Carolina athletics history under Holland. Legendary Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari noted Holland’s groundbreaking use of sports psychologists and his special emphasis on the mental side of the game.
Above all, the speakers shared the remarkable influence that Holland had on each of them.
“You were the greatest,” former Virginia assistant and current Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “No one will ever forget the impact that you had on all of our lives.”
Sampson then returned to the microphone to moderate a panel of former Virginia basketball players from Holland’s tenure. The list included Wally Walker, Marc Iavaroni, Rick Carlisle, Jimmy Miller, Bryant Stith, Jeff Jones, Jeff Lamp and Bobby Stokes.
One by one, Holland’s former players shared stories of Holland’s gentle guidance, passionate coaching techniques, vigilant training programs and penchant for off-beat humor and pranks. Each made it clear that Virginia basketball would not be what it is today without Holland’s massive leadership and care.
“This arena wouldn’t be here without him,” Walker said, citing Holland’s stint as Virginia’s Athletic Director from 1994-2001, in which he oversaw the expansion of Scott Stadium, the construction of the Aquatics and Fitness Center and later the planning for John Paul Jones Arena.
“He was our leader,” Jones said. “Coach Holland was our rock.”
Following this panel, Bennett, University President Jim Ryan and University Athletic Director Carla Williams took the stage to present a banner in the rafters of John Paul Jones Arena, immortalizing Holland’s legacy as an all-time great that changed the trajectory of Virginia athletics.
Finally, Holland’s grandchildren and wife Ann shared personal stories of their memories of Holland, not just as a coach but as a devoted family man. A video presentation and a piano performance from Hornsby and Carlisle brought the ceremony to a close.
“Today in one giant room, with a basketball court as a stage, the team of a lifetime came together,” Ann Holland said. “This is his dream team.”