Former William Jewell head coach Larry Holley passes away

Photo Courtesy William Jewell Athletics

William Jewell College is saddened to share the passing of longtime head men’s basketball coach Larry Holley, who passed on Thursday, May 12, at the age of 76. Funeral arrangements are forthcoming, and the Holley family has requested privacy during this time. 

Holley spent 44 years on the William Jewell campus as a head coach and student-athlete. He led the men’s basketball program from 1979 until his retirement in March 2019 after 40 seasons and 918 wins. He was still actively involved at the College serving as chair of the Hall Fame Committee and attending nearly every basketball game as well as serving on the Alumni Board of Governors. He was also a 2009 William Jewell Citation of Achievement recipient. 

Throughout his legendary career he received 15 Coach of the Year Awards, including becoming the first NAIA coach to receive the prestigious Sears/NABC NAIA National Coach of the Year Award in 1996. He was also selected to five Halls of Fames: The Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the William Jewell College Athletic Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. 

In 2011 he was honored by the Kansas City Sports Commission with the Earl Smith Award inducting Holley into the Greater Kansas City Amateur Sports Hall of Champions and was a recipient of the Gary Filbert Legacy Award (2014) for lifetime achievement in basketball in the state of Missouri, which is the highest honor given by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. Most recently, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame in April of this year. 

While at Jewell, Holley coached 24 NAIA All-Americans including six first team selections and one who was named NAIA-II National Player of the Year. Twenty-six of his players were also named NAIA Academic All-Americans. In addition, 149-of-155 of his fourth-year players at William Jewell graduated. During their time in the NAIA, his teams were consistently ranked in the top-25 national polls, including No. 1 rankings in 1996 and 2004. They also received the No. 1 seed in the national tournament in 2004.

Holley as a 1967 Jewell graduate and lettered four times in each of three sports (cross country, basketball and track). He was captain of each sport and capped his career by being named Jewell’s Athlete of the Year as a senior. He scored 1,122 points in his basketball career at Jewell and was an All-Conference and All-District selection as a senior. Off the court he was heavily involved on campus, serving as president of his fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha), president of the J Club, vice-president of the 1968 senior class, a member of Aeons, selected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and was the recipient of the Colonel Alexander Doniphan Award that goes to the senior man deemed most likely to succeed. He was also a member of the concert and pep bands and chapel choir all four years.

Holley was a graduate of Jameson High School (MO) where his dad was superintendent of schools and his mother a teacher. During his days at Jameson, he was involved in numerous activities including basketball, track music and speech while graduating as valedictorian. In basketball, he became Jameson’s first, first team All-State selection after leading the Huskies to a record of 33-1 and a third-place finish in the state tournament. His jersey is now retired. On the track, he was a state champion in the mile at the indoor meet and fourth in the outdoor event. A talented musician, he received state ratings in trumpet and vocal solos, in addition to top ratings in poetry reading and radio speaking at the district speech contests. 

Holley is survived by his wife Linda, three daughters Lindsay, Lauren and Lacey with late wife Anne, in addition to multiple grandchildren and other family.

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