The emails came all day long to Jerry Boyes, each one with a different memory but the same story. Sandy Hollander was one tough coach. But she was fair. And her passion for softball, for her family and for life was a lesson she shared with everyone who came across her path.
Hollander, 52, died Monday night.
She was in her 24th season as the Buffalo State softball coach, a program she helped shape along with leaving an imprint on the softball community in Western New York. She was a fierce competitor but tempered that with a caring nature and greater perspective.
"She was a competitor. A real competitor," said Boys, Buffalo State's athletic director. "She demanded excellence and, quite frankly, because of that she got it. I've opened emails all day from former players who just so much appreciated Sandy for how she did things and how tough she was yet fair along the whole process."
That excellence she demanded was best summarized in a mantra for herself and for her teams: "Don't waste a today."
Hollander started at Buffalo State as an assistant athletic trainer in 1985 and was promoted to head athletic trainer, a position she held until 2007. She became the lead trainer for the football program in 1989, something which Boyes didn't think much of until today.
"In 1989, there certainly were women athletic trainers," Boyes said. "But I don't know if many were in charge of football. She just was tough on the kids. -- I thought today about how many student-athletes she didn't just coach but took care of as a trainer and got them back on the field. She was tough on the kids but she cared about them."
Also in 1989, she was named the softball coach for the Bengals. Hollandar's 562-343-2 overall record ranks in the Top 25 all-time for wins among Division III coaches. Under her direction, Buffalo State won three State University of New York Athletic Conference titles and made eight trips to the NCAA Division III tournament.
She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in January 2006. Still, she was in the dugout for 42 games that season and the Bengals went 30-12 overall and finished third in the SUNYAC Championships.
In 2007, the cancer had spread to her lungs but even with her treatments she still did not miss a game.
Her cancer battle was ongoing for the next four years, but she stayed committed to the Bengals softball program. In 2009 she led them to a school-record 34 wins, a SUNYAC Championship and a spot in the NCAA regional final.
She is survived by her son, Alex, 10. Funeral arrangements are pending.