After 30 years and success on the basketball court that most coaches dream of — legendary coach Al Holland announced last Friday that he is retiring.
“I’ve been a head coach for 30 years,” Holland said. “That’s a long time. Plus, I was the athletics director at Hazard, so with my age, I was wore down at the end of each day. It gets hard getting home at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. each night. Plus, I wanted to spend more time with my family. I’ve got a granddaughter now and I want to see her more.
“Again, 30 years is a long time to do anything. I have really enjoyed my time coaching all of my players. It is a special thing to coach kids. They become more like your family because you spend so much time with them. I hope it was beneficial to them because I know it was beneficial to me to be able to coach so many kids and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives.”
According to the KHSAA website, Holland entered his last season with a 647-246 record. He finished last season with a 22-5 record.
He finished his 30-year career with a 669-251 record according to the KHSAA.
Holland coached at Dilce Combs, then M.C. Napier, Perry Central and Hazard.
Holland won 14th Region titles with M.C. Napier, Perry Central and Hazard.
He finished with 10 region championships in total.
He won back-to-back region championships at M.C. Napier in the school’s final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. He led Perry Central to five region championships in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005. He led Hazard to three 14th Region titles in 2008, 2009 and 2020.
Also at Hazard he won four 14th Region All “A” Classic championships. He took the Bulldogs all the way to the All “A” Classic state tournament semifinals in 2020.
His tenure at Hazard started in the 2007/2008 season. Holland also took over as the athletic director then too.
“I think winning 10 region championships and being a runner-up nine times is pretty good in 30 years of coaching,” Holland said. “We had some great wins and wonderful memories. We also had some heartbreaking losses. But we did have a lot of big wins throughout the years. But the biggest thing I’ll take away is the relationships with the kids. I always wanted to be fair to all of the kids and at the end of the night, I hope that I taught them that no matter if you win or lose, you still shake your opponents hand and show them respect at the end of the game. I told every kid to take advantage of your opportunities when you get your chance to play and I hope they remembered that lesson throughout life. Make the most of your opportunities when they come around because they don’t come around often.”
One of the things Holland wants to be remembered for as a coach is being fair. Fair to his players and his teams.
“I think one positive that I can note is that I took a lot of pride in every aspect of coaching,” Holland said. “I did a lot of scouting to get our kids ready and give them the best chance each night. I think I was fair to the kids and played the best nine or 10 kids each season. I didn’t show favoritism. I think I made them work hard and expected a lot from them, but I gave that back to them. I tried to give the kids as much exposure as possible. We played in tournaments all over the country. I wanted the kids to get seen, but also some of the kids may never get the opportunity to travel and visit places like that again. We played in Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Florida, you name it and we have probably played there over the years. We also liked to test ourselves against the best in this state and would take part in tournaments in Louisville and Lexington and all over the state.”
Holland finished his career with a winning season. In his last season coaching, he finished with a 22-5 record in a season cut short by COVID-19.
COVID-19 wasn’t the reason he stepped away from coaching, but his last season coaching was definitely different than the first 29 because of disease.
“It was definitely different last season,” Holland said. “I had COVID before the season, but it’s still in the back of your head. Plus, you don’t want to see your kids get it or anybody else. It was just a strange season. Unlike any of the other years I’ve coached. It was an added burden on everyone and it had to be taken seriously because of the serious effects it has on people.”
After 30 years, one of the best to ever coach basketball in the state is hanging it up. Holland finished as the 12th winningest coach in state history.
“It’s bittersweet, especially when you enjoy doing what you do,” Holland said. “It’s going to be an adjustment.”