Brad Holland could have taken the low road in a desperate attempt to motivate his players. He was a college coach with a six-figure income at risk, but he never forgot he was first a coach focused on basketball skills and academics.

In 13 years at USD, all but one of Holland’s players who finished his eligibility graduated. He won a school-record 200 wins. His players were often outmanned but rarely out-coached.

But after his University of San Diego men’s basketball team began slipping in the West Coast Conference standings from a 2-0 start on the road to a fifth-place 6-8 finish, Holland had to know his job was in jeopardy.

The expectation from USD athletic director Ky Snyder — who relieved Holland of his job on Thursday by buying out the final year of his contract — was that the Holland’s team needed to finish in the top two of the WCC standings.

But Holland’s players said they had no inkling that Holland’s job was on the line. They sat in stunned silence when they learned the news from Holland in a final team meeting.

“We never heard anything about having to win a certain amount of games,” said De’Jon Jackson, a freshman guard.

Added Theo White, a senior forward/center: “He never mentioned it to us.”

A lesser coach would have.

— TOM SHANAHAN

Friday, March 9, 2007

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