What makes Mike Holloway's track teams at UF so good? Never being satisfied | David Whitley
After cementing himself as the greatest coach in Florida history, Mike Holloway granted himself the usual celebration.
“I get on my knees and give thanks for my blessings,” he said. “I’m just thankful for my kids and my staff. And, honestly, I’m just trying to figure out how to win it again next year.”
It is an NCAA championship. After sweeping the men’s and women’s outdoor track and field titles this past weekend, Holloway’s teams have won 12 national championships.
Take that, Nick Saban!
Sure, we’re talking apples and oranges. Track has four potential titles a year (men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor), as opposed to one.
Which coach is the greatest of all time at UF?
While it can be fun debating Steve Spurrier vs. Billy Donovan vs. Rhonda Faehn vs. Holloway, their sports have too many inherent differences to truly proclaim one coach the Greatest of All Time on any given campus.
But sheesh, a dozen national championships in the past dozen years?
Holloway could give a seminar on GOAT-ness. One lesson would be it’s not enough to get to the top. The real trick is staying there.
“I’m a big believer that if we carry anything with us, be it failures or successes, it bogs us down,” said Holloway, who has been the UF men's head coach since 2003 and women's since 2008.
“While I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments, that day is over now. It will never be taken away from us. So, to celebrate it too long would be a mistake. I just try to stay humble and stay hungry.”
Holloway may strive for the humility of a monk, but he’s not falsely modest. UF sprint legend Kyra Jefferson once gave him a T-shirt that read, “I’m a hell of a coach, if you’ll listen to me.”
Coach Mike Holloway predicted men's NCAA victory
Holloway seemed almost insulted that people were surprised the men’s team won this NCAA title. He told UF athletic director Scott Stricklin last fall that the Gators might win the men’s and women’s championships in both indoor and outdoor.
The women won indoors — Holloway's first NCAA title with the UF women — but the men were 20th.
“A horrible finish,” Holloway said.
Super sprinter Joseph Fahnbulleh was hampered by COVID and a bad hamstring. Such is the fragile nature of track and field, where one pulled muscle can derail an entire team.
The Gators were ranked No. 6 going into the NCAA championships. But they had trained to peak in early June, not late April. Holloway got up last Friday morning and made a prediction to his wife.
“We’re going to score 54 points,” he said.
Sure enough, Florida piled up 54 points, 16 more than runner-up Texas. The women’s team came in ranked No. 2 and won by 10 points over the Longhorns.
Stars like Fahnbulleh, Jasmine Moore and Anna Hall made headlines in Eugene, but they had plenty of help from too many people to mention here.
The end result was the first men’s and women’s sweep since 2015. Nobody was less surprised than Holloway.
“This is not happenstance,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been doing for a long time.”
The best programs have slumps. Just ask anyone who's watched USC football or "Saturday Night Live" lately. Even with disaster just a sprained ankle away, Holloway’s men’s teams have finished in the top three 22 times since 2009.
Most of the talent on both teams is provided by underclassmen. But college track stars have turned pro early for years. Throw in NIL, and it’s far from certain everybody will return.
Whatever the roster is in 2023, there will be one constant.
Holloway turns 63 this year, but he’s as hungry as he was four decades ago, when he was a volunteer coach at Buchholz High in Gainesville.
“I’ll know when I wake up and I don’t have that drive,” he said. “But I don’t see that day coming anytime soon. I’m still locked in, man.”
That’s why after these latest championships, Holloway didn’t spend long on his knees.
When you’re the GOAT, you get up and try to figure out how to do it again.
David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley