Former William Jewell men's basketball coach Larry Holley died Thursday

Posted at 8:14 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 10:46:10-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former William Jewell College men's basketball coach Larry Holley, whose 919 total career wins ranks 10th all-time among men's college basketball coaches, died Thursday.

His daughter, Lindsey, announced Holley's death Thursday night in a post on social media:

"It is with a broken heart that I share that our extraordinary dad, Larry Holley, passed away unexpectedly this afternoon. We are all in shock and I know everyone who loved him will be too," the post read. "If you knew our dad, then you know what a huge loss this is. He was a special man to so many of us — a coach, teacher, mentor, husband, father, grandfather, cousin and friend. He loved his life and the people in it so much."

Jewell later confirmed Holley's death in a statement on the school's website.

Funeral arrangements are pending and the family has requested privacy during this time.

Holley, 76, retired from Jewell in 2019 after 40 seasons as the Cardinals' head coach, according to information on the school's website.

Holley's coaching career started in 1968 at Harrisburg (Missouri) High School before he took over in 1969 at Central Methodist University.

After six seasons with the Eagles, Holley spent two seasons as an assistant coach before taking over the Northwest Missouri State University program, where he finished 26-26 in two seasons.

He left the Bearcats after going 15-11 in 1978-79 to take over at Jewell, his alma mater.

Holley — a Jameson, Missouri, native — led the Cardinals to to 25 20-win seasons, 11 Heart of America Athletic Conference championships and finished with an 832-460 career record.

Under Holley, the Cardinals won 12 conference championships and appeared in 14 NAIA national tournaments, according to a biography on the school's website.

Jewell reached the NAIA Division II Final Four four times under Holley (1993, 1995, 1997, 2004). The Cardinals also had a 45-game conference win streak and 43-game home winning streak during his tenure.

Holley was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the Pinnacle Award from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in Show-Me State athletics in 2020.

He also has been selected to the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame and the William Jewell College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Holley was awarded the Kansas City Sports Commission's Earl Smith Award in 2011, inducting him into the Greater Kansas City Amateur Sporting Hall of Champions.

He also received the Gary Filbert Legacy Award, the highest honor given by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, in 2014.

Holley was presented the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame's SCB Lifetime Achievement Award last month.

He remained active at Jewell as chair of the Hall of Fame Committee and on the Alumni Board of Governors after his retirement. The scshool recognized Holley with the William Jewell Citation of Achievement Award, Jewell's highest alumni honor, in 2009.

During a 48-year college head coaching career, Holley finished 919-579. He owns the most college basketball wins in Missouri history and is one of only 13 coaches in men's college basketball history at any level to eclipse 900 wins.

Holley — a 15-time coach of the year winner at various levels, including the 1996 Sears/NABC NAIA National Coach of the Year — also worked as a teacher in the college's Department of Physical Education for more than three decades.

He also started an annual high school basketball classic that's played each winter at the college and features some of the area's best high school basketball players.

There were few things Holley didn't accomplish as a student, athlete or coach at Jewell — where he graduated in 1967 after earning varsity letters in basketball, cross country and track and field, according to the school's website.

Holley also was the president of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, vice president of his senior class and voted by the senior class as the Colonel Alexander Doniphan Award winner as the man most likely to succeed.

"I have always said that William Jewell was the perfect place for me as a student and it's been the perfect place for me as a coach," Holley said in a statement on the school's website just before his retirement. "This has been my home for 44 of my 73 years. It has been a privilege and honor to coach the Cardinals for the past 40 years."

Holley and his late wife, Ann, had three daughters.

Two of them, Lindsay and Lauren, graduated from William Jewell. Lacey, his youngest daughter, is a Drake University graduate.

He is survived by his second wife, Linda, along with his three daughters and four grandchildren.