Clinton’s Terry Holland, who transformed UVA hoops, dies

The Davidson grad went on to be coach and athletic director with both the Cavaliers and Wildcats, plus AD at East Carolina

Former Davidson basketball player, coach and athletic director Terry Holland holds up a frame with his jersey No. 42 last January. The Clinton native, best known for making the Virginia Cavaliers an ACC contender, died Sunday at age 80. (Brian Westerholt / AP Photo)

Terry Holland, who elevated Virginia basketball to national prominence during 16 seasons as coach and later had a distinguished career as an athletic administrator, has died, the school announced Monday. He was 80.

Holland died Sunday night, according to the school, which confirmed the death with his family. His health had declined since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019 and he stopped taking his prominent courtside seat at Virginia home games.


Holland took over a flailing program in 1974. The Cavaliers had had just three winning seasons in 21 years and Holland created a culture that proved a formula for success: His Cavaliers played rugged defense.

Two of his first three teams finished with losing records but only one more did as Holland compiled a 326-173 record, led Virginia to nine NCAA Tournaments, two Final Fours and the 1980 NIT title. He also guided the Cavaliers to their first Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title in 1976 despite a modest 15-11 regular-season record.

Including a five-year stint at Davidson, his alma mater, Holland’s record is 418-216.

His biggest victory, however, likely was luring the nation’s most coveted recruit, 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson of Harrisonburg, to join the Cavaliers for the 1979-80 season, and it was then that the turnaround took off.

“Terry Holland,” Sampson told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month when asked what made him choose upstart Virginia over more established suitors. “He was mainly the deciding factor. Good school, good teammates, good education, ACC. I mean, you had Dean Smith and all those people around, but he understood my demeanor and fit what I wanted in a coach. He was the perfect fit for me.”

The Cavaliers won the NIT in Sampson’s freshman season and went to the NCAA Tournament for his last three years, reaching the Final Four in 1981 before losing to UNC in the national semifinals.

Sampson, a future Hall of Famer, earned national player of the year honors in each of his last three seasons, and the profile his presence provided surely aided Holland in building his program. Virginia went back to the Final Four in its first season without Sampson, losing in overtime to Houston in the national semifinals, and appeared in the NCAA Tournament in four of Holland’s final six seasons as coach.

Holland also built an extensive coaching tree, with many assistants moving on to become successful head coaches themselves. Among them: Rick Carlisle of the Indiana Pacers, Jeff Jones at Old Dominion and former longtime college coaches Dave Odom and Seth Greenberg.

When he stepped down as coach at age 48, it was to return to his alma mater, Davidson, as athletic director, beginning an administrative tenure that would bring him back to Virginia five years later in the same position. In 2001, he moved to special assistant to the president of the university, and in 2004, he began an eight-year stint as athletic director at East Carolina before retiring in 2012.