In an era of outstanding high school basketball players and great coaches in Oregon, Barney Holland was one of the greatest of them all.
Holland, who was 89, died Wednesday at his home in Beaverton.
I was covering high school sports for the Oregon Journal when Holland built a prep hoops juggernaut at North Eugene High School around Danny Ainge. I believe I have seen most of this state's best high school basketball teams -- the Jefferson, Benson, Churchill, South Salem, Corvallis and Medford dynasties, to name just a few.
But the best all-around teams I saw were those North Eugene teams of 1976 and '77. That group went 53-1 and seldom had a close game, in an era when Oregon was loaded with very good talent from border to border. Those teams could always score and defended fullcourt with great ferocity.
Yes, Ainge was terrific -- an All-American in college and a solid NBA pro for many years. But he was a terrific all-around athlete and Holland was smart enough to make use of his athletic abilities at both ends of the court. Ainge was not a dominant scorer in high school, even though he could have been, because Holland insisted on a movement offense that spread the scoring. On defense, the Highlanders used a run-and-jump press that took advantage of their quickness and ability to switch screens to be a frightening team to play against.
And Ainge, hyperactive and quick, was a one-man wrecking crew with his steals and forced turnovers.
Holland was national prep basketball coach of the year in 1977 and would later serve as an assistant basketball coach at Oregon, where he once played varsity football and basketball and was inducted into the Ducks' athletic hall of fame.
Holland began his coaching career at Lebanon High School and later coached at Aloha for many years. He compiled a 406-224 record and won three state titles.
His teams were aggressive on defense and unselfish on offense. He was old-school, the kind of coach common in those days who pushed his players hard and they ended up loving him for it.
Ainge, recently retired from his front-office role with the Boston Celtics, paid tribute to his former coach on Twitter: