Jon Teitel got to chat with long-time Virginia coach Terry Holland, who led the Cavaliers to the 1980 NIT title. Holland’s most famous player was Ralph Sampson, who became a three-time national Player of the Year. We congratulate Holland on his recent retirement from his position as Athletic Director at ECU.
You played at Davidson for legendary coach Lefty Driesell, who was later inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. What made Lefty such a great coach, and what was the most important thing you ever learned from him?
Coach Driesell would not let us settle for being less than the best we were capable of accomplishing in everything we did: in the classroom, on the court, and in our daily lives. He taught all of us that the best coaches coached the whole person, not just the player.
In 1964 you led the nation in shooting with 63.1 FG%: what is your secret for being a great shooter?
My success was based on a simple principle: shot selection. Coach Driesell helped me understand which shots I could take/make and which shots I should not take.
You spent five years as head coach at Davidson, where you were named Southern Conference Coach of the Year for three straight years. How were you able to come in and have so much success so quickly?
Success as a coach has a very simple principle as well – hire great assistant coaches! I spent 21 years as a head coach, and each of my 10 full-time assistants became head coaches at the Division 1 level. Several of my players also went on to become coaches, including two NBA head coaches (Rick Carlisle/Marc Iavaroni), and Wally Walker also became President/GM of the Supersonics.
In 1976 as coach at Virginia you won the only ACC tournament title in school history (led by tourney MVP Walker): how big a deal was it to win the ACC title?
That ACC title gave our program much-needed credibility. At the time the school had only one winning season in 20+ years of ACC competition and a cumulative conference record of 86-205.
Take me through the magical 1980 NIT.
Lee Raker scored 17 PTS in a two-point win over Boston College. How close did you come to losing that game?
We were fortunate to get the win over BC. Raker was able to get to the FT line for 9 of his points. BC did a good job with their zone defense against Ralph Sampson and Jeff Lamp. We did a good job holding John Bagley to 11 PTS, but Vin Caraher scored 24 of their 55 points.
Lamp scored 30 points in a win over UNLV, how crucial was it to surround Sampson with a bunch of guys who could score?
Lamp had a great game against a very good UNLV team, but the real key was Sampson. As a freshman playing his first game in Madison Square Garden he had 26 points and 15 rebounds while going against future NBA 5th overall pick Sidney Green. At 7’4″ and 195 pounds, Sampson had struggled against physical big men during his freshman year, but in the NIT he clearly showed how much he had improved and what his potential could be.
Sampson became the first freshman to ever be named NIT MVP with 15 points and 15 rebounds in a three-point win over Minnesota to clinch the title. How was he able to come in and dominate as a freshman, and what did it mean to you to win the title?
That was a great game against a powerful Minnesota team featuring Kevin McHale, Trent Tucker and Randy Breuer. Sampson was very impressive and more than held his own in the lane. His two games at MSG were head and shoulders above any other pair of games during his freshman year, and it launched him toward three consecutive seasons as national POY. The NCAA tourney had not yet expanded to 64 teams by 1980 so the NIT was still a great tournament. The teams in the NIT Final 4 (Virginia, Minnesota, UNLV, Illinois) could just as easily have been in the NCAA Final 4 that year.
Take me through the 1981 NCAA tournament.
Sampson had 22 points, 12 rebounds in a win over BYU (national POY Danny Ainge scored 13 points). What did your team learn from the 1980 NIT that helped them in the tourney in 1981?
Even though we lost to Maryland (with Albert King, Buck Williams) in the ACC tourney and were playing with a banged-up Raker, we were a solid, confident team entering the second NCAA tournament in school history. A solid defensive win against a Stewart Granger-led Villanova team put us against Dale Ellis and Tennessee in the Eastern Regional. The win over the Vols led to a great match-up with a very good BYU team led by Ainge and featuring Fred Roberts and Steve Trumbo at the forward spots. Sampson and Lamp (18 points) led five players in double figures, and a great defensive effort held BYU’s potent offense in check for the 74-60 win. The 1980 NIT, particularly the final two games, prepared this team for a great NCAA tourney run in 1981. The addition of two small but quick freshmen point guards (Ricky Stokes, Othell Wilson) allowed us to play at a much faster pace for longer lengths of time. We won our first 23 games before losing by one point to a Notre Dame team featuring several future NBA players (Kelly Tripucka, Orlando Wooldridge, John Paxson).
Al Wood had 39 points, 10 rebounds in a win by eventual national runner-up North Carolina. How was Wood able to dominate that night, and what was it like to coach against HOF coach Dean Smith?
Wood was unstoppable: we tried everybody on him and we also tried every kind of defense (including a box-and-one). It was just a great performance by a great player. We beat North Carolina twice during the regular season, but the Tar Heels rode Wood’s shoulders into the title game against the Hoosiers, pushing us into what turned out to be the last-ever Final 4 consolation game..
Lamp scored 25 points (11-11 free throws) in a four-point win over LSU in the third place game only a few hours after the assassination attempt on President Reagan. How were you able to keep your team focused after not being sure if you would even play that night?
Coaches and school officials all lobbied hard for the NCAA to cancel the consolation game. By midday the NCAA had not budged, they were probably afraid that some folks would want their money back! We started preparing to make the best of it and both teams played hard once the game started. It is great that we are the answer to the trivia question “Who won the last NCAA Consolation game?”
In the 1982 NCAA Tournament Ralph Sampson scored 19 points in a thee-point win over Tennessee and had 19 points and a tourney-school record 21 rebounds in a two-point loss to UAB in Birmingham. What are your memories of the 1982 NCAA tourney?
When we lost Wilson to injury in the 1982 ACC tourney our team was sorely wounded: that was our best and most flexible team during the Sampson years. Even without Wilson we lost a close game to UNC and Michael Jordan in a slow-down game in the ACC tourney final. UNC went to their delay tactics with over 10 minutes remaining in the game, which had a great influence on the ACC approving a shot clock the following year. Our 1982 team had beaten the Heels’ defending champions (featuring James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Jordan) 1 month earlier by a score of 74-58 and Louisville (another Final 4 team) by a score of 74-56, but we could not handle UAB at home in Birmingham. Wilson tried to play but was only able to take the floor for four minutes. We missed his ball-handling against an aggressive UAB defense that turned us over 18 times.
In 1982 your #1-ranked team had a five point loss to Chaminade in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. How on earth did you lose that game, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
That was the greatest road trip of all time. We left Dulles Airport after beating Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in DC and flew to Japan to play a top-houston Houston team (Phi Slamma Jamma). Sampson caught the flu on the flight and was seriously dehydrated, but we somehow beat Houston without Big Ralph. Our next game in Japan was against top-20 Utah who was coached by Jerry Pimm. On the way back to the US we stopped in Hawaii to play Chaminade for the 3rd time in 4 years. They always gave us a good game but we were usually able to get a lead during the final 10 minutes and then open it up from there. However, Chaminade played very well for 40 minutes this time. We played hard and out-rebounded them by an overwhelming 55-31 margin, but we shot poorly from the floor and the free throw line and the rest is history. I do not believe that our guys were surprised about going 3-1 on that road trip: the only surprise was which one we lost!
Take me through the 1983 NCAA tourney:
Carlisle scored 22 PTS (8-8 FT) in a three point win over BC. What made Carlisle such a good player, and did you get the sense that he wanted to go into coaching someday?
The 1983 team was Ralph’s last opportunity to win an NCAA title and we all felt the pressure to get that monkey off his back. Rick was a very smart player who had many roles on that team. Against BC’s zone defense we needed his scoring and he came through with a great effort. He was a coach on the floor for us. He designed off-season workouts for himself and his teammates and supervised those workouts just like a real coach would. He clearly had all the skills to become an excellent coach if he wanted to, and he has been outstanding for several different NBA teams.
Dereck Whittenburg scored 24 points in a one point win by eventual champion NC State after you were up by seven points with seven minutes to play. How devastating was that loss, and did you feel that the Wolfpack were just a team of destiny that season?
We had another powerful team with a legitimate chance to win it all…until we ran into an NCSU team that was simply a “team of destiny.” The Wolfpack were dead in the water on several occasions starting back in the ACC tourney but always found a way to win. They won nine straight “must-win” games against top-quality competition: three in the ACC tourney and six in the NCAA tourney. Whittenburg had shown us how good he could be on many occasions, including a 27-point effort before breaking his ankle in a game earlier that season. When he returned to full health late in the season, NCSU again became one of the best teams in the country. In spite of the impact of the loss on our team, I was impressed with the Wolfpack and was pulling for them to win it all. When I was asked after the game if I was devastated by the loss I stated, “I feel badly for Ralph and all of our seniors because this was their last chance to win a national championship. As for myself, I will have another chance next season and I am just dumb enough to believe that we will right back in the hunt for a national championship next year.” Of course that turned out to be true even though on that evening in Utah the assembled media looked at me like I was crazy!
Take me through the 1984 NCAA tourney:
Wilson made a jumper with six seconds left in a one-point win over Iona and Carlisle made a baseline jumper with four seconds left in a two point overtime win over Arkansas. How was your blood pressure doing by that point, and what is the secret to drawing up a game-winning play?
That run to the Final 4 in Seattle was a classic example of a team getting hot at the right time. We had started the season with 12 straight wins, but just could not keep that level of play up as we lost key players at various times due to injury. After losing to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tourney we were determined to make the best of our opportunity to play in the NCAA tourney. The first game in a run to the title is usually the most dangerous unless your team is a top-4 seed. Wilson pulled us through against Iona in the opener, which created a match-up with a great Arkansas team coached by Eddie Sutton in a classic tourney game. Carlisle picked up a loose ball and drained a jumper for the win as we advanced to the Eastern Regional in Atlanta (the site of our 1981 Eastern Regional title). After those two thrillers we had a relative breather against Pearl Washington and Syracuse, while Indiana knocked off UNC in Jordan’s last college game in the other regional semifinal.
Jim Miller scored 19 points (8-11 FG) in a two-point win over Indiana. How were you able to hold Steve Alford to only six points (2-7 FG) in 38 minutes?
That game matched two excellent defensive teams that depended on perimeter scoring for a lot of their offense (especially Alford). Another nail-biter with both teams scoring in the 50s would not have surprised anyone. Only one team even scored 50, as our stifling defense allowed us to prevail 50-48.
Hakeem Olajuwon had 12 points and 11 rebounds in a two point overtime win by eventual national runner-up Houston. Could you tell at the time that Olajuwon was going to become a star?
It looked like a real mismatch when we were facing a powerful offensive team in Houston. However, our defense keep the game close and we had a chance to win in regulation until Olajuwon made a great defensive play at the buzzer. We controlled the tempo and mixed up our defenses to keep Houston’s offense off-balance. They only scored 49 points but we were only able to score 47.
Take me through the 1989 NCAA tourney:
Richard Morgan scored a tourney-school record 33 points (9-9 free throws) in a three point win over Providence, then matched that with another 33 points in a win over Middle Tennessee State. Was Morgan just “in the zone” that week, and did you think you had the momentum to get back to the Final 4?
In the 1989 run our team saddled up Morgan and rode his three-point shooting to victory against Providence, Middle Tennessee State and a powerful Oklahoma team before losing to Michigan in Rupp Arena. Freshman Bryant Stith and outstanding point guard John Crotty were also capable scorers, and those three provided most of the offensive punch to score 100, 104, and 86 points respectively in our first three tourney games.
Tourney MOP Glen Rice scored 32 points (13-16 FG) in a win by eventual champion Michigan (en route to setting a tourney scoring record with 184 points in six games). Where does Rice rank among the greatest scorers you have ever seen?
We finally ran out of gas against Michigan, scoring only 65 points against an outstanding bunch of future NBA players in addition to Rice (Terry Mills, Loy Vaught, Rumeal Robinson, Sean Higgins). Rice ranks as one of the very best players we ever tried to defend. Even when we fouled him he would keep his balance, make the shot, and get to the line to make his free throws.
What are your memories of the 1990 NCAA tourney (Crotty scored 28 points in an eight point win over Notre Dame, then Stith scored 30 points but had his shot blocked by Derrick Coleman with four seconds left in a two point loss to Syracuse in your final game as coach)?
Our 1990 team was actually a little more consistent than the previous year. Crotty (a junior) and Stith (a sophomore) had matured and were playing very well just about every night: it was a fun team to coach. I had already announced my retirement from coaching to take the AD job at my alma mater. The Notre Dame win got us off to a good start, but Syracuse’s zone defense and Coleman’s inside presence limited our scoring considerably. Even though Stith scored 30 the rest of the team was only able to score 31 points. Stith still had one final chance to win the game but Coleman blocked his three point attempt as time ran out. Coleman got the block cleanly and fell into Stith for what would have been a foul most of the time, but the officials let it go. I cannot argue with their decision, even though it was my last game as a college coach.
You remain the winningest men’s basketball coach in Virginia history: do you think that anyone will ever break your record?
I hope not, but they have a great young coach right now who should break that record.
In 1997 you served as chair of the NCAA Basketball Committee: how did you like the job, and what was the hardest part?
The Committee experience was one of the most enjoyable assignments an athletic administrator can have. I truly enjoyed working with the other committee members and the fabulous staff the NCAA provided (led by Tom Jernstedt).
Last month you retired as AD and Executive Assistant to the Chancellor at ECU: how did you like being AD?
I truly enjoyed my experience at ECU and had no desire to leave for any other position.