UK Men's Basketball

Fab Five-era player, car dealer dies

Joseph Burnett "Joe" Holland, a member of the first University of Kentucky men's basketball national championship team, died Saturday.

After his basketball years, Mr. Holland, 84, was a prominent car dealer in West Virginia and Kentucky.

"Joe and his wife, Betty, were just wonderful people," said Joe B. Hall, who was a freshman at UK when Mr. Holland was a senior. Hall would later coach Holland's son Joey.

Though a World War II stint in the Navy came first, Mr. Holland arrived at UK after graduating from Benton High School in Kentucky. He was the high school team's captain and led it to second place in the state tournament.

At UK, he was a reserve on the Fabulous Five's 1947-48 championship team. "To me, he was a giant back then," Hall recalled. "He was kind of a fortress on the floor and was very strong, very physical."

Mr. Holland was drafted in 1948 by Baltimore and in 1949, he joined Fabulous Five members Alex Groza, Cliff Barker, Ralph Beard and Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones in forming the Indianapolis Olympians of the NBA. It was the only time in the history of professional basketball that five players from one school joined a pro team together and the only time the players themselves owned the team.

Mr. Holland later became a car dealer, owning Joe Holland Chevrolet in Charleston, W.Va. During his 50 years of work in the industry, he also bought Bill Gatton's Friendship Chevrolet on High Street in Lexington and turned it into Joe Holland Chevrolet. He later moved the dealership to New Circle Road and sold it to Rod Hatfield in 2002.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Maranatha Fellowship Church, St. Albans, W.Va. Visitation will be at 1 and 6 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church. Snodgrass Funeral Home, Charleston, is in charge of arrangements.

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