Terry Holland, at age 70, deserves to have a long, happy retirement but East Carolina is fortunate that its athletics director will continue to have some impact on the department’s future.
Holland announced his pending retirement Wednesday but will remain as AD emeritus and play a role in the selection of his successor.
The news coincides with preparations for the second bowl appearance in football coach Ruffin McNeill’s three seasons and the recent news that ECU football will move from Conference USA to the Big East. Jeff Lebo’s third basketball team will take a 6-1 record into Saturday’s game at UNC.
Holland made both hires and had worked tirelessly on the quest to get into the Big East. It’s very likely that none of those accomplishments could have happened without his leadership.
When Holland was hired in 2004, the vision that Pirates patriarch Clarence Stasavich formulated for the school in the 1960s was in shambles.
Holland’s predecessor, Mike Hamrick, not only had spearheaded a spectacularly poor decision to fire Steve Logan as football coach but also put blunder upon blunder by placing Florida defensive assistant John Thompson in Logan’s office.
The result was a costly catastrophe. Thompson’s two teams were 1-11 and 2-9 with the finale being a 52-14 loss in Charlotte to N.C. State. Pessimism was widespread within the fan base.
Those moves came after Hamrick arranged a schedule that included Friday night football games in 2001 and ’02. So outraged were high school coaches in the state that Logan and his staff were essentially blackballed from recruiting at some of those schools.
“This has been a special program and I think will be again,” Holland said when hired. “When you have the kind of loyal fans we do at ECU, you know there are bright days ahead.”
Holland made it happen. His quick, decisive action during his first few weeks on the job did more to energize the football program than anything since the games Stasavich lined up against N.C. State, UNC, Duke and Wake Forest first as the football coach and later as athletics director.
Skip Holtz was brought into replace Thompson and after going 5-6 in his first season (2005), the Pirates ended ’06 with a win at N.C. State and a bowl bid.
Between Stasavich, who died on Oct. 24, 1975 (one day before a 38-17 Pirates win at UNC), ECU generally had strong athletic leadership.
Bill Cain, who followed Stasavich, maintained the regional football relationships and Dave Hart promoted Logan when the Pirates lost football coach Bill Lewis after going 11-1 and defeating the Wolfpack in the 1991 Peach Bowl.
It now becomes imperative for the Pirates to find a new leader in the Holland mold a person with the personality, intelligence and energy to keep the football engine moving while extending upon Holland’s basketball template.
Finding that person will not be easy, but it’s got to be a plus for ECU that Holland will be there to make suggestions and bridge the transition.
In large part, ECU got lucky with Holland. A native of Clinton, a remarkable basketball player at Davidson, a former coach with two Final Four teams at Virginia and a seasoned AD, he was an ideal hire but even more of an ideal fit for the school and its supporters.
The game plan in the job search is simple: Find Terry, II.