DAVIDSON, N.C. -- He's traded his playbook for a datebook and his sweat suit in for a dress suit, but Terry Holland appears just as comfortable after six months as the Davidson College athletic director as he did after 16 years as the University of Virginia basketball coach.

Though Holland, 48, looks fit enough to run up and down the court for 40 minutes, his health was clearly a factor in his leaving Virginia when he did.

Months of on-and-off abdominal pain followed by two trips to the operating table in January 1989 left Holland pondering his future.

"It was a factor, but not a direct factor," he said recently. "It gave me an opportunity to reflect on all of this. It brought to the forefront the question of how I was going to phase out of coaching. . . . It was not a driving force in my timetable, it was a driving force in terms of you need to establish a timetable."

On Dec. 1, 1989, about one month before his first surgery but just after he accepted Davidson's administrative offer, he saw just how difficult the transition would be from famous coach to small-school athletic director.

On that Friday night, his Cavaliers played at Davidson. Virginia trounced the Wildcats, 71-57, in the host school's first game in its $17 million Baker Sports Complex.

"That was tough," Holland said. "Obviously I wanted to win. . . . It put a lot of pressure on me. . . . If we had lost, everyone would have said Holland couldn't motivate his team. There was all the hullaballoo and it's always tough to open anybody's gym. But opening your alma mater's gym, where you're going to be working soon, is a tough circumstance." Particularly when you're coaching the opposition.

The biggest adjustment for Holland, who finished with a 326-173 record at Virginia -- more victories than any Cavaliers coach -- has been adapting to work in an office and off the court.

For someone who played basketball as far as his talents would take him and went straight into coaching without skipping a beat, sitting behind a desk has not been easy.

"The program needed a shot in the arm and my notoriety gave me an opportunity to give that shot," said Holland, who led the nation in field goal shooting percentage (.631) as a Davidson senior in 1963-64. That was under Lefty Driesell, whom he succeeded as the Wildcats' coach and responded with a 92-43 five-year record, replete with three consecutive Southern Conference coach of the year awards, as his springboard to Charlottesville.

"It was a way to pay Davidson back," he said of his return, "and a natural step for me into athletic administration.

"Why not go to a place I can have an impact and a place I know? . . . I'm taking things slowly. There haven't been any drastic changes."

The most significant change came in July when every sport at Davidson except football joined the Big South Conference. That means an opportunity for an automatic bid into the NCAA basketball tournament, something Holland and Davidson Coach Bob McKillop would relish.

"Obviously, I love basketball," Holland said. "But I've become interested in watching other teams practice. I've really had an opportunity to broaden my viewpoint of coaching. I'm dealing with teams here on a different basis. . . . Certainly, I do miss being on the court, but no more than I expected to. I've been so busy it hasn't been a problem."

These days, he's getting busier. Holland is working as a color commentator this season for ESPN at several Western Athletic Conference games.

"When I came here, that was one of the things I wanted to do," he said. "This job gave me an opportunity to pursue both athletic administration and television work at the same time. I had accomplished most of the things at Virginia I hoped to accomplish. The program was in good shape and it was time to get out of coaching."

Holland may be in a different job, a different state and different, less prestigious conference, but the circumstances are not as different as they might appear.

Just as Virginia is routinely ranked among the top academic institutions in the country, Davidson's recent freshman classes have a combined median SAT score of 1230.

"It's small enough that you're really a part of everything that goes on," he said. "Now I'm aware of the effect of a tuition increase. Finding a way to do well on a consistent basis is important to us. But I'd like to show how intercollegiate athletics should be done; without spending huge amounts of money and without compromising academic standards."

That's nothing new to Holland -- at least, the part about not compromising academic standards.

"We have no choice," he said. "We had no choice in Virginia and we have no choice here. The only difference here is the amount of money. There's no TV contract, no full houses to draw money from the gate . . . Davidson had to have a special appeal, similar to what I had in Virginia. It's been exciting, it's been hectic, it's been a learning experience."

And apparently the student who found so much success and happiness in coaching is preparing himself for a long haul as an athletic director. "I think coaching is done for me," he said. "But I've left the door open because I'm still young enough."

That learning experience has also taught him to recognize a potential conflict. With 26 years of coaching experience, including 16 in the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference and two Final Four appearances, Holland admits it will be difficult to not play teacher with the Davidson basketball coaching staff.

In 1989-90, McKillop's first year, the Wildcats finished 4-24.

"I have a good relationship with Coach McKillop," Holland said. "But I'm very cautious about it. He has to coach our team. I hope to avoid that trap. I think our relationship is such that it won't be a problem. But it's certainly a potential problem. . . .

"I'd be awfully disappointed in myself if I wasn't happy here. I don't need the bright lights and fame. I made it a point to stay in the background. The focus should be on the team. I'd be very disappointed in myself if I couldn't be happy without the glare of the lights."

Holland will return to Charlottesville on Jan. 21. On that Monday, McKillop's Wildcats will play at University Hall, odds-on that they won't improve on last year's 14-point loss to Holland's team, the nucleus of which remains intact under his replacement, Jeff Jones.

"Obviously I want to see Virginia be extremely successful," Holland said. "But then, it would mean so much to these guys here to win that one."