Legendary Montana State coach Sonny Holland died at the age of 84 on Saturday, Dec. 3. Two of the stars from the 1976 national championship team that Holland coached, twin brothers Dan and Don Ueland of Butte, shared their memories of the greatest Bobcat.
BUTTE, Mont. -- Dan and Don Ueland are two of the Mining City's greatest football legends. The twin brothers both starred on the 1976 Montana State national championship team--a team coached by the greatest Bobcat of them all: Sonny Holland.
And the young Ueland boys would be the first to admit their initial intimidation.
“My first impression was when he actually came to Butte Central to recruit us, and this guy in this trench coat and his goulashes comes tramping down the hall," Don said. "And he was a big man in those days.”
But Holland didn't demand respect--he commanded it, and the Uelands bought in. And it wasn't long until what was expected to be an average year turned out into one of the most legendary seasons in Montana sports history.
“Coming into , we were predicted to end up in the middle of the conference somewhere... we had a brand new backfield," Don said. "And we started winning games, and then it got better and better and better.”
“Once we won one game, we could win the next and the next one," Don continued. "We won the conference, we beat the Grizzlies, we moved on into playoffs, and got rank number one... it just got better.”
Perhaps what made Holland's relationship with the Uelands really click was the fact that they all shared a hometown: the Mining City.
“Sonny Holland and Sonny Lubick were both Butte coaches, and we had nine Butte players on that team, so we had a special camaraderie," Don said.
“He was more than just a football coach... he was a life coach too," Dan added. "The strategies and the norms that he lived by and did, you followed the rest of your life.”
And the Uelands still abide by Holland's principles, hanging onto the phrases and advice, though few in words, that made his "the Greatest Bobcat."
“Pregame to a football game, it was lucky you got if 30, 40 words out of Sonny Holland," Dan said. "It was always, ‘Now is the time, this is the place, let’s go.’”
“I can’t think of another coach in Montana that has a 25-foot statue sitting in front of the stadium at the largest university in Montana," Dan continued. "That’s why he’s the greatest Bobcat there ever was.”