Holovak, All-America player, ex-BC, Pats coach dies

Updated: January 27, 2008, 4:06 PM ET
Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Mike Holovak, a longtime NFL executive who coached the Patriots to their first championship game, died Sunday, a few hours before the team left for the Super Bowl. He was 88.

[+] EnlargeMike Holovak
AP PhotoMike Holovak is the Patriots' second winningest coach and led the Boston Patriots to the AFL title game after the 1963 season.

Holovak died in Ruskin, Fla., of complications from pneumonia, Boston College spokesman Reid Oslin said after speaking with Holovak's wife, Pauline Scudder Holovak. Holovak was a former football star and coach at Boston College.

The Patriots' second winningest coach, Holovak led the Boston Patriots to the American Football League title game after the 1963 season. They lost to San Diego, 51-10. He later was vice president of player personnel and general manager of the Houston Oilers and stayed on when they moved to Tennessee and became the Titans.

He began his NFL career playing for the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams before he became freshman football coach at Boston College in 1949 and varsity coach in 1951.

"Mike Holovak was a great coach and a wonderful person," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement issued by the team. "I remember watching Mike's Boston College teams in the 1950s and his Patriots teams in the 1960s.

"I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time with him on several occasions. Our team has lost one of its founding fathers and the entire Patriots family is saddened by Mike's passing."

Holovak had a 53-47-9 record as Patriots coach, including playoffs. Only Bill Belichick has more wins, 105.

When the Boston Patriots became part of the new AFL in 1960, Holovak was their first director of player personnel and served as offensive backfield coach. They were 5-9 that season under Lou Saban and missed the playoffs.

After they started the 1961 season at 2-3, Holovak replaced Saban and led them to a 7-1-1 record the rest of the season, finishing with a 41-0 win at San Diego and a four-game winning streak.

The New England Patriots reached this year's Super Bowl by beating the Chargers 21-12 in the AFC Championship Game. On Sunday, about 15,000 fans attended a departure rally at Gillette Stadium at which Kraft and several players spoke.

The Patriots went 9-4-1 in 1962 and missed the playoffs but made it for the first time the following year after posting a 7-6-1 record.

They beat Buffalo 26-8 in their first playoff game, then traveled to San Diego for the AFL championship game. The Patriots didn't return to the playoffs before Holovak was replaced after the 1968 season by Clive Rush.

"Mike was a mentor, a coach, a friend, and above all, a consummate gentleman," said Gino Cappelletti, the second leading receiver on the 1963 Patriots and sixth in club history. "His contributions as coach and general manager in the critical early years of the Patriots' franchise were monumental."

Holovak also coached and held administrative positions with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.

"Mike was the quintessential 'football guy,'" Titans owner Bud Adams Jr. said in a statement issued by Boston College. "It is rare when you see a person excel in all three areas of the sport: a great player in college, a successful coach and great talent evaluator, but Mike was one of the special people."

A memorial mass was planned for the Boston College campus on Feb. 9.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press