When Terry Holland died at 80 on Feb. 26, national news reports set out his distinguished record in glowing detail: successful coaching records at Davidson and the University of Virginia and admirable service as athletic director at both those schools and East Carolina University.
I remember Holland’s early basketball years as a college player better than his later coaching and athletic directorship successes. I was playing at Davidson in 1960 when I heard that we had a chance to recruit a star high school player from Clinton.
There was a problem. Terry loved his high school coach, Jack Murdock, who was headed to Wake Forest to be an assistant coach, and Terry was planning to join him.
But Davidson’s then new coach, Lefty Driesell, had other ideas. Here is how Terry explained it 25 years later in a reunion edition of “Scripts and Pranks,” the college literary and humor magazine.
“He had the unmitigated gall to say that if I came to Davidson, I would have the opportunity to play on nationally ranked teams. Well, I was dumb, but I wasn't stupid. I knew Davidson had won only five games that season and there was no way a school of that size could compete on a national level. I made up my mind to go to Wake Forest (where my high school coach would be an assistant) right then and there. The only thing was, my mother wouldn't let me sign. She had decided that Davidson was a safe place for her oldest son. In the final argument, she signed my acceptance letter to Davidson and mailed the darn thing in and dared me to tell anyone it wasn't my signature.
“When you grew up in Clinton, in the 50s, it never crosses your mind that your parents can be wrong or even questioned. It suited my dad since he went to work at 5 a.m. and never got home before 10 p.m., he didn't have the energy to get involved in an argument, and he liked Lefty, too.”
Back at Davidson, we heard that on one of Lefty’s recruiting trips to Clinton, Lefty arrived at the Holland house and found Terry without a car to take his date and future wife, Ann, to the school prom.
Lefty quickly made his car available. By the time Terry came home, Lefty was best friends with Terry’s mom.
In those days freshmen could not play on varsity teams, but in his sophomore year at Davidson, he helped lead the team to its first winning season in many years and to even greater glory in the following years.
Terry had a great sense of humor and could be mischievous. Lefty had a well-earned reputation for slamming his foot on the gym floor when a referee or one of his players made a mistake. My mother and father, who was then president of Davidson, hosted a supper for the team and coaches. Terry had injured his ankle and it was wrapped up prominently.
When my mother noticed, she asked Terry how his ankle got hurt. Terry responded quickly, “Coach got mad and stomped on it.”
Terry was an ROTC student and planned to serve in the Army after graduation. But he learned in April 1964 that he was “too tall for commissioning.”
He had no other plans until, as he explained, “In June, I worked a camp in Norfolk with Lefty and he informed me that he had $3,500 to hire an assistant coach, but he could not find anybody dumb enough to work that hard for that amount. You could actually hear the wheels churning as he looked at me and sure enough before the week was over, I was hooked again.”
Terry took the job and the rest, of course, is history.
A history of success and service.
D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.