The problems of the Virginia basketball team, growing almost daily for the last month, peaked Wednesday night when Coach Terry Holland, apparently upset over a newspaper article discussing dissension on the team, announced that neither he nor his players would talk to the press for the rest of the season.
Emerging from his locker room after the Cavaliers, 19-8 this season, had struggled to a 63-55 victory over William and Mary, Holland said, "I don't want to be a jerk but we're not conducting interviews. I've done my duty as far as conducting interviews. The kids have done their duty; we're going to try to play basketball now. I'm going home.I haven't slept in two days. tI'm going home to get a good night's sleep."
The reason for Holland's anger was a story in Wednesday's editions of the Roanoke Times and World News which quoted four Virginia players, including the team captain, Mike Owens, as saying there was a communication gap between the players and coaches. Virginia, after recruiting 7-foot-4 superstar Ralph Sampson, entered the year with top-10 hopes. It is currently unranked.
In the story by Doug Doughty, Owens, from Kensington, Md. is quoted as saying: "I remember my first year when we were 12-17 as being enjoyable because there wasn't much pressure. But we're getting a different type person now. We have some guys on our team who will question authority and I think he (Holland) has a difficult time dealing with that."
Owens, Dean Carpenter and Jeff Klein talked specifically in the story about a communications gap. "I feel I just can't approach him (Holland), Klein said. "I feel uncomfortable."
In the story Holland denies that there is a communications gap. "If there's a gap with Mike Owens it was not created by me," Holland told Doughty, "and I don't think it was intentionally created by Mike.He's just not playing well."
Yesterday, after Holland met with UVA Athletic Director Gene Corrigan, Corrigan said that Holland would talk to reporters after games. He said he did not order Holland to talk to reporters.
"Terry knows he has to talk to the press," Corrigan said. "He was very tired Wednesday. He is still standing by his statement that the kids won't talk to the press until after the end of the season. But as far as I'm concerned Saturday's game with Maryland is the end of the season. Anything after that (including next week's ACC tournament) is postseason."
Corrigan clearly had mixed emotions about the situation, admitting that Holland's reaction would make it appear that the Cavaliers, who have lost five of seven games and are tied for fifth place in the ACC, are sulking.
But at the same time, he labeled the Doughty story "stupid."
"All Doug did was talk to some reserves, who naturally aren't going to be happy about not playing and the starter on the team who is having the worst year. Michael Owens is having a horrible year, especially for someone who is both our captain and a starter."
Holland was not returning reporters' phone calls yesterday.
After Holland met with Corrigan, however, he taped a statement for a telephone hotline. In it, Holland said he felt the media attention, much of it surrounding Sampson, had been "distracting."
"It's created problems," Holland said. "I'm not just talking about interviews, I'm talking about the whole ball of wax. . . . Our first responsibility is to play the best basketball we can and we have not done that lately. This may not help but it's certainly worth a try."
Doughty said he asked Holland on the phone if he could talk to starters Lee Raker and Jeff Jones and Holland refused.
Doughty also said that leading scorer Jeff Lamp had refused comment when he tried to talk with him.
"If Doug had come here we would have set him up with anyone he wanted," said Virginia spokesman Todd Turner.
Turner conceded that Holland was upset with the players who had spoken to Doughty. "You don't air your dirty laundry in public," he said. "You keep it within the family. "It's like talking about marital problems. If someone calls you and asks about your marriage you don't tell them you're getting a divorce just because they ask."