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Throwback Thursday: The Man who Scored 40

Publicity and action photos of Gary Holway from his senior year at UAlbany. (Photos courtesy of UAlbany Archives

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 30, 2017) — Richard “Doc” Sauers is without question one of the greatest coaches in the annals of college basketball history, with a 702-330 won-lost record. But every legend could use a good start, and every good start could use some amazing good fortune.

Doc, who coached UAlbany from 1955 to 1997, may have felt the hand of providence upon him on a day shortly before his first team practices at the College for Teachers began in Fall 1955. From the balcony surrounding the Page Hall Gymnasium court, he saw a 6-foot, 3-inch trim but muscular young man shooting baskets, throwing in hook shots with either hand. The man was 24-old-freshman Gary Holway of Saranac Lake, who’d just completed a four-year hitch in the U.S. Navy.

Sauers recalls how a local salesman and longtime fan of the team was walking by. Doc asked him, “What’s the school scoring record?” “He told me 328 or something like that,” Sauers said. “I told him, ‘That’s going to be gone.’”

By the end of a winning season in which Holway scored 497 points, gone it was. The total stood as a team record for eight years, and Holway’s scoring average for the year, 24.9, has never been broken. Nor has his career rebounding average of 13.8 per game. His total points mark lasted 48 years, until topped by Jamar Wilson in 2007.

But the record that was spoken about the most was the 40 points Holway threw in as a sophomore versus Utica at Page Hall on Feb. 27, 1957. In 60 years, UAlbany players 12 times came within five points of it, four times within two, but no one caught it until David Nichols tied the mark last March 1 at home against Harford.

Recalling Holway’s big game, Sauers said, “I think we beat them about 94-44. It was so one-sided that Gary played 26 or 27 minutes [out of 40]. I wasn’t aware of his getting a record. I was more interested in giving all our guys a chance to play. I’m sure he would have scored 50 if I’d left him in.”

Holway said he had no idea he'd totaled 40: "My concentration was always on winding up with a good score on Doc's point system." The points all involved good defense: guarding the man with the ball, guarding "without the ball," and overall defensive effort — factors requiring the opposite mentality to running up one's point total. Like most of Doc's players, Holway got the message.  

The respect Holway earned on campus was nearly unprecedented. Upon playing his final game on March 7, 1959, the Student Senate held a Gary Holway Night “as a small measure of our respect and devotion.” A proclamation lauded him for the “stellar quality” of both his play and demeanor, which “epitomized the essence of American sportsmanship,” his “high level of scholastic endeavor,” and efforts that entailed “much personal and family sacrifice” — at graduation, Holway was a married man with two daughters.

After graduation, he earned a biology Ph.D. at Colorado State and then served 35 years on the faculty at Oneonta State. Upon retirement he returned seriously to basketball, becoming a member of gold medal-winning National Senior Games 3-on-3 teams in his 60s, 70s and, in 2012, at 81.

At one point he invited Sauers, only six months his senior, to join the team. “He wanted me to come out to Colorado!” laughed Doc. “I told him I hadn’t played in a while.”

The invitation may have surprised the former coach, but not Holway’s being named in 1984 as one of the first five inductees to the UAlbany Athletic Hall of Fame.

“A quality guy,” said Doc. “You’ll never find anybody nicer or a better friend.”

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