Former Patriots head coach Mike Holovak passed away today at the age of 88. Holovak spent nearly eight seasons as the head coach of the Boston Patriots (1961-68) and led the franchise to its first championship game appearance following the 1963 season.
“Mike Holovak was a great coach and a wonderful person,” said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. “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.”
After a nine-year tenure as the head coach at Boston College, Holovak served as the offensive backfield coach and director of player personnel during the Patriots’ inaugural season in 1960. He was named head coach prior to the sixth game of the 1961 season and immediately turned the team’s fortunes around. He took over a 2-3-1 club and led it to seven wins in its final eight games to finish the season with a 9-4-1 record, just a game behind Houston, that season’s eventual American Football League champion. The accomplishment was a marked improvement over the team’s 5-9 record in the 1960 campaign. Holovak led the Patriots to an identical 9-4-1 record in 1962, but again fell just short of the divisional title, finishing a half-game out of first place.
In the 1963 season, Holovak’s Patriots achieved the franchise’s first playoff victory, defeating the Buffalo Bills in a divisional playoff matchup to advance to the 1963 AFL championship game. The following season, the Patriots posted a 10-3-1 record, setting a franchise record for victories that stood for a dozen years.
Holovak’s 53 victories as Patriots head coach rank second in franchise history after Bill Belichick (105). His tenure of 107 games on the New England sidelines also ranks second in team annals, trailing Belichick’s 144 games as head coach.
Holovak coached five of the 12 members of the Patriots Hall of Fame: LB Nick Buoniconti, WR/K Gino Cappelletti, DE Bob Dee, DT Jim Lee Hunt and QB Vito “Babe” Parilli. During Holovak’s tenure, two Patriots won the AFL’s Most Valuable Player Award: Cappelletti (1964) and RB Jim Nance (1966).