Of the multitude of former Virginia basketball players who attended a memorial service for coach Terry Holland this past weekend, it’s hard to say anybody had more of a connection to his former coach than Bobby Stokes.
Although he was still in high school when Holland took over the UVa program in the fall of the 1974, Stokes had a role in one of the Cavaliers’ biggest achievements in program history when Virginia won its first ACC championship in 1976.
Stokes could not have predicted the role that he would have decades later, when he served as one of Holland’s doctors as he fell victim to dementia.
“I was honored and blessed and somehow had to navigate this illness that we all saw,” Stokes said Saturday.
Holland was the Cavaliers’ head coach for 16 seasons before he stepped down following the 1989-90 season, after UVa had received the ninth NCAA Tournament bid of his tenure.
He later served as director of athletics at Davidson, Virginia and East Carolina. He had the title of East Carolina athletic director emeritus until 2023 but had returned to live in Charlottesville and could be spotted in the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena as late as the 2021-22 season.
Stokes went to high school at King William in King William County northeast of Richmond and wasn’t originally headed to UVa.
“I used to watch Virginia play,” he said during Saturday’s tribute at John Paul Jones Arena, “but they used to talk so bad about Virginia that I used to turn the sound down. They weren’t having a good season at the time, so I didn’t want to be influenced by commentators.
“But the way his players responded to him — he’d do his little clap-clap on the sidelines — that I said, ‘That’s the coach I want to play for.’ When I came on my official visit, he walked me over to his house … and I asked him, ‘Do I have a chance to start if I come to the University of Virginia?’
“He said, ‘Bobby, I can’t promise you that you’re going to start but you’re not going to be dissatisfied with your playing time.’ All I wanted was an opportunity and he gave me that here. What he did for that team, my first and second year, has given us a band of brothers that I feel will be there for life.’ “
Bruce Hornsby performs at memorial service
Another feature of Saturday’s ceremony at John Paul Jones Arena was the music of longtime UVa fan Bruce Hornsby, who was joined later in the proceedings by Rick Carlisle, the head coach of the Indiana Pacers who went on to tell the crowd of his decision to transfer to UVa after beginning his college career at Maine.
They combined to play the “Impossible Dream.”
Ralph Sampson, the three-time Naismith Award winner during his UVa years. served as master of ceremonies Saturday and talked about his decision to go to Virginia while Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was knocking on his door in Harrisonburg.
Former UVa head coaches Jeff Jones and Pete Gillen were at the ceremony Saturday afternoon, as was current head coach Tony Bennett, who earlier this year surpassed Holland’s school record of 326 wins in 16 seasons.
Andrew Abbott, former Virginia pitcher and graduate of Halifax High School, is mowing them down with the Louisville Bats, Cincinnati’s AAA affiliate. He has 60 strikeouts in 30.2 innings.
The fifth seeded Virginia Men’s Tennis hosts 12 seed Duke on Saturday in the NCAA round of 16. Virginia has made the round of 16 in 16 of the past 17 championships. The team includes players from Israel, Sweden, Spain, Luxembourg and Switzerland as well as the United States.
Three Virginia men’s lacrosse players were selected in the 2023 Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) College Draft on May 9. Thomas McConvey went in the first round to the Waterdogs followed in the second round by Xander Dickson and Petey LaSalla. Virginia is the only school in the nation with at least one first round selection in each of the first five PLL Drafts.
Virginia is making its fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which kicks off Saturday with second-seeded Virginia hosting Richmond at noon.