Tony Bennett (basketball, born 1969)
Bennett at the Barclays Center
|Annual salary||$2.43 million[a]|
June 1, 1969|
|1996–1997||North Harbour Vikings|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1998–1999||North Harbour Kings|
|2003–2004||Washington State (assistant)|
|2004–2006||Washington State (associate HC)|
|2013||USA U-19 (assistant)|
|Head coaching record|
10–8 (NCAA Division I)|
|Accomplishments and honors|
2 ACC Tournament (2014, 2018) |
3 ACC regular season (2014, 2015, 2018)
3× Henry Iba Award (2007, 2015, 2018)|
2× Naismith College Coach of the Year (2007, 2018)
2× AP National Coach of the Year (2007, 2018)
NABC Coach of the Year (2018)
3× ACC Coach of the Year (2014, 2015, 2018)
Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2007)
3× USBWA District 3 Coach of the Year (2015, 2016, 2018)
Jim Phelan Award (2007)
2× Academic All-American (1991, 1992)
Men's Basketball Academic All-American of the Year (1991)
Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (1992)
2× MCC Player of the Year (1991, 1992)
Single-season win records at both Virginia (31) and Washington State (26, twice)
NCAA record for career three-point field goal percentage (49.7%)
Anthony Guy Bennett (born June 1, 1969) is the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball team since March 31, 2009. He is considered the best defensive coach in college basketball, and one who won't break NCAA rules. His mover-blocker motion offense is also praised as elite and efficient. The style of basketball he teaches has been compared to a boa constrictor choking out opponents, and his teams are known for their unselfish play, defense-first philosophy, and tempo control.
Bennett is the first coach to win 17 ACC games in a season, one of three in ACC history to achieve back-to-back 30-win seasons, and a three-time ACC Coach of the Year. His Cavaliers won ACC Tournaments in 2014 and in 2018, and won outright ACC regular season titles in 2014, 2015, and 2018. Bennett holds the school records for single-season wins at both Virginia and Washington State. He is the only living three-time winner of the Henry Iba Award[b] for national coach of the year (only the late John Wooden won more) and a two-time winner of similar honors from Naismith and the AP. Despite such recognitions, he tends to eschew interviews and media attention.
As a player, Bennett ranks first in NCAA history for career three-point field goal accuracy, at 49.7%, peaking at 53.3% in 1990–91. He started for Team USA in the 1991 Pan American Games, was awarded the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the nation's top player under six feet tall, and was named Academic All-American of the Year as the nation's top basketball student-athlete. Bennett played at Green Bay for his father Dick Bennett, who took Wisconsin to the 2000 Final Four using an earlier version of the packline defense seen today at Virginia.
Bennett played three years in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets and several more professionally in Australia and New Zealand, where he started coaching. His time there led him to later recruit several players from Oceania into college basketball, including Aussie Aron Baynes who went on to win an NBA Championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs.
- 1 Biography and playing career
- 2 Coaching career
- 2.1 New Zealand and Wisconsin
- 2.2 Washington State
- 2.3 Virginia
- 2.3.1 2009-10: Five-win improvement
- 2.3.2 2010-11: Personnel losses but continued rise
- 2.3.3 2011–12: Most wins at UVA in 17 years
- 2.3.4 2012–13: Establishing the dominant nucleus
- 2.3.5 2013–14: #1 ACC finish and ACC Tournament champions
- 2.3.6 2014–15: #1 ACC finish and 2nd Henry Iba Award
- 2.3.7 2015–16: NCAA Elite Eight
- 2.3.8 2016–17: 250 career wins
- 2.3.9 2017–18: Unranked to AP #1 and ACC Tournament champions
- 3 Player development
- 4 Head coaching record
- 5 Coaching tree
- 6 Family and personal life
- 7 References
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
Biography and playing career
Bennett, a point guard, played for his father Dick Bennett at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay (UWGB) following his high school career at Stevens Point Area Senior High and Preble High School. The Bennetts led the Phoenix to an NCAA Tournament berth and two appearances in the NIT. During his time there, the Green Bay Phoenix had a record of 87–34 (.719) en route to Bennett being twice named as the conference's Player of the Year. He was awarded the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award given to the nation's most outstanding senior under six feet tall and was named the 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the year. He also started for a bronze-medal winning 1991 Pan-American Games team led by Gene Keady. He finished his collegiate career as the Mid-Continent Conference's all-time leader in points (2,285) and assists (601), and still ranks as the entire NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point field goal accuracy.
Bennett went on to be picked in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He spent three seasons (1992–1995) with the Hornets before a foot injury ended his NBA career. With an eye toward returning to the NBA, Bennett left for New Zealand in 1996 to play for the North Harbour Vikings. His second year there, he became a player/coach. He completed his playing career as a two-time New Zealand NBL All-Star Five honoree and a two-time Keith Carr Trophy winner for being the league's Most Outstanding Guard both years. In early 1997, Bennett also had a short stint with the Sydney Kings of Australia's National Basketball League.
Bennett wanted to understand everything about the game of basketball to the point that, even as an NBA player, teammates felt he would rather learn and study the game than participate in it. Bennett's teams, especially at Virginia, are known for their motion offense and stifling defense which features his version of the "pack line" defensive strategy famously devised by his father. The pack line is designed to clog up potential driving lanes to the paint by forcing ball handlers to the middle of the floor where more "help" is concentrated. It forces opposing teams to pass and shoot well, while limiting dribble penetration and post play.
New Zealand and Wisconsin
In 1998, Bennett stopped playing for North Harbour but kept coaching them. His time there taught him he was able to coach without the anxiety he had seen his father experience coaching back in Wisconsin, and convinced him that he could undertake the stressful life of a coach while maintaining his integrity and peace of mind. After the 1999 season, he returned to the U.S. to become his father's team manager so that they could spend time together.
After one season as assistant coach, Bennett was designated as his father's successor and promoted to associate head coach. Two years later, he inherited the position of head coach at Washington State when his father retired in 2006.
Washington State's success would skyrocket under the younger Bennett, and his 26 wins in both the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons tied a 66-year-old school record  set by the team that reached the Championship Game of the 1941 NCAA Tournament.
2006–07: School record 26 wins
Bennett led the 2006–07 Cougars basketball team to a 26–8 (13–5 Pac-10, second place) record and the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars earned a No. 3 seed and defeated Oral Roberts in the opening round before falling to Vanderbilt in double overtime in the second round. The NCAA tournament appearance was the first for the Cougars since 1994, breaking a 13-year March Madness drought for the Cougars.
After the 2006–07 season, Bennett was given the prestigious Henry Iba Award by vote of the United States Basketball Writers Association, and was named the AP college basketball Coach of the Year and the Naismith College Coach of the Year. He was also named the Rivals.com Coach of the Year.
2007–08: 26 wins and Indiana offer
During the 2007–08 season, Bennett finished with a 26–9 record (11–7 in the Pac-10). He also went on to lead the Cougars to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Winthrop and Notre Dame in the first and second rounds. After losing to North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen, Bennett's team had again reached the school record for wins, with 26.
After the season, Bennett reportedly turned down an offer to become head coach at Indiana, a job which eventually fell to Marquette coach Tom Crean. He also discussed the LSU (his wife's alma mater) vacancy at that year's Final Four, a job that eventually went to Stanford coach Trent Johnson. Bennett decided to remain loyal to WSU.
2008–09: Rebuilding and budget constraints
Bennett went back to work at Washington State with a need to replace NBA draft pick Kyle Weaver. He brought in Klay Thompson, a talented four-star recruit out of California (and son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson). Thompson rapidly improved on the offensive side of the court as a freshman, but the team struggled more than in the two previous years on the defensive end and finished 17–16.
Canceled recruiting flights and Final Four trip for staff
Because of ongoing budgetary constraints in its athletics department, Washington State dropped charter flights for Bennett and his staff for use in recruiting to the remote school and cancelled a trip for his staff to the 2009 Final Four. As this was happening, Bennett was contacted about the Virginia job and traveled to Charlottesville to interview. While extremely impressed with John Paul Jones Arena and the potential advantages of coaching in the ACC, he initially decided to once again remain loyal to WSU. However, when Bennett went to call Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage and decline the offer, Bennett's wife Laurel stepped in and said "put the phone down," as she could sense a great uncertainty in his voice when he said he would pass up UVA.
Bennett then accepted the Virginia offer on March 29 exactly one year, to the day, after turning down the Indiana job.
Bennett was named head coach at Virginia on March 31, 2009. Ritchie McKay, head coach of the Liberty Flames, stepped down to become Bennett's associate head coach. During the rebuilding process, Bennett's teams increased their win total in every successive season. After inheriting a 10–18 squad, Bennett's Virginia won 15, 16, 22, 23, 30, and 30 games in his first six seasons. They also improved their ACC record in each of these years, earning records of 5–11, 7–9, 9–7, 11–5, and finally a repeat ACC-best 16–2 (with an ACC Tournament title) and 16–2 again. In 2018, his Cavaliers were the first team to win 17 ACC games in a single season and won their second ACC Tournament title in five years.
Bennett has found a knowledgeable fanbase at UVA that has really "bought in" on his defense-first mentality and tempo control, and John Paul Jones Arena is regarded as one of the toughest places to play for opposing teams of the ACC.
2009-10: Five-win improvement
In their first season under Bennett his new team finished the season 15–16 (5–11 in the ACC), an improvement of 5 wins (+50%) versus the prior year under Bennett's predecessor (former and current DePaul coach Dave Leitao). Sophomore Sylven Landesberg, a former McDonald's All-American recruited by Leitao, led the team in scoring before getting suspended for the final game of the season after failing to meet academic obligations. It was soon announced that Landesberg and the program mutually parted ways, and he turned pro but went undrafted.
2010-11: Personnel losses but continued rise
Despite every disadvantage, including one star player (Landesberg) leaving because of academic struggles and the another (Mike Scott) going down with an early-season injury and taking a medical redshirt, the Cavaliers started the season with a bang by knocking off No. 13 Minnesota on the road, in Minneapolis, during the 2010 ACC-Big Ten Challenge. UVA improved to 7–9 in the ACC and had a winning record overall. They were passed over for postseason consideration.
2011–12: Most wins at UVA in 17 years
This season began much like the last had, with unranked Virginia dismantling No. 15 Michigan in the 2011 ACC-Big Ten Challenge. In just Bennett's third year at Virginia, he led the Cavaliers to 22 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth. It was the most wins the program had tallied in 17 years and its first NCAA Tournament game (a lopsided loss to Billy Donovan and Florida) in five years. After rapid development under Bennett over the past three years (of which he played only two because of injury), Mike Scott was taken 43rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2012 NBA Draft.
2012–13: Establishing the dominant nucleus
Based on his early successes, Athlon Sports named Bennett one of the four best ACC coaches (with Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Leonard Hamilton) before the season. The Cavaliers would tally one more win (23) than the previous season, despite losing Mike Scott to the NBA, and establish nearly all the pieces to take the program even higher. Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Joe Harris, Darion Atkins, Mike Tobey, and Akil Mitchell all started or played extensively for the young team. All they were missing was a controlling point guard, which Bennett found on the recruiting trail in "diamond in the rough" three-star London Perrantes from California.
2013–14: #1 ACC finish and ACC Tournament champions
In 2013–14, Perrantes started as a freshman and joined the top players from the previous season as the Cavaliers won their sixth ACC regular season title, clinching it with a statement 75–56 home win against highly touted ACC newcomer No. 4 Syracuse, a team which had started the season 25–0. It was also their first outright regular season title since 1981. Virginia also won its second-ever ACC Tournament title (their first since 1976), defeating second-seeded No. 7 Duke in the final game, 72–63. The Cavaliers received their third (but first since 1983) No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1995. Bennett was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year, as well as runner-up for AP Coach of the Year. Bennett signed a new seven-year contract to extend his employment with Virginia through 2021. It included a $1.924 million base salary package, with additional longevity and achievement bonuses. Part of his contract negotiations included long-term contract renewals for his staff.
2014–15: #1 ACC finish and 2nd Henry Iba Award
Virginia got off to a 19–0 start, reaching an AP No. 2 ranking for the first time since 1983. Much was made in the press that of the top three teams, each still undefeated throughout much of December and January (Kentucky, Virginia, and Duke) the Cavaliers had zero McDonald's All-Americans, whereas the Wildcats and Blue Devils had nine each. Other highlights included holding Georgia Tech, Rutgers, and Harvard to under thirty points each and actually "doubling up" the scores of Georgia Tech (57–28) and Wake Forest (70–34); displays of unprecedented dominance for ACC play from any program in the past 50 years. The Harvard game was notable for a near-tripling score, 76–27 and limiting the Crimson, an NCAA Tournament team, to one field goal in the first half which tied the NCAA record for the shot clock era. Two injuries to Justin Anderson near the end of the season dampened NCAA Tournament hopes before he turned pro for the 2015 NBA Draft. Bennett was awarded his second Henry Iba Award as the nation's top coach, joining ACC peer Roy Williams as the only coaches ever to win the award at two different schools. Bennett signed a new contract through 2024.
2015–16: NCAA Elite Eight
UVA started the season with impressive wins against eventual national champions Villanova, West Virginia, and California. The number of home-and-away series with programs from other power conferences such as these was virtually unprecedented in the ACC. Bennett was recognized for having one of the most elite offenses in the nation as well as one of the best defenses once more, and ESPN writer Jeff Goodman chose Bennett as the ideal head coach of his mythical "Dream Team" before the season... stating "I'm going with Bennett, who ... has owned the ACC the past two seasons. Just imagine what he could do with this group of players and this level of talent. Bennett will make sure these guys defend (yes, even you Niang!) and he also has the ideal, even-keeled temperament." UVA later defeated Iowa State in Niang's final collegiate game in the Sweet Sixteen, before Bennett's first loss (starting 3–0) to Jim Boeheim's Syracuse in the Elite Eight.
2016–17: 250 career wins
UVA brought in a well-rounded recruiting class which included Bennett's first McDonald's All-American, a consensus top 50 recruit, Kyle Guy. Former five-star recruit and transfer Austin Nichols became eligible after sitting out the previous season, but was suspended for two weeks including the season opening game for an undisclosed incident and dismissed entirely for a second undisclosed incident after playing (and starting) in one game. UVA nonetheless broke its record for consecutive weeks ranked in the AP Top 25 poll with a streak of 64 polling weeks spanning more than three years, breaking its previous best of 49 in the 1980s. Bennett recorded his 250th win as a head coach against No. 14 Notre Dame, in South Bend, 71–54, while extending his record against Mike Brey to 5–0. The Cavaliers notched impressive double-digit victories over eventual national champions No. 5 North Carolina, 53–43, and No. 4 ranked Louisville, 71–55. This completed Bennett's head-to-head rivalry record against Hall of Famer Rick Pitino at 5–1 before Pitino was dismissed for NCAA rules violations in the off-season.
2017–18: Unranked to AP #1 and ACC Tournament champions
Virginia started as an unranked rebuilding team with 64 consecutive weeks in the AP poll snapped in the off-season. A Winston-Salem Journal reporter projected the worst season of Bennett's career at 5–13 in ACC play. UVA became ranked after winning the NIT Season Tip-Off. They then defeated No. 12 North Carolina 61–49 to continue a home streak of 5–0 against the Heels since 2013. No. 2 Virginia overcame No. 4 Duke on the road for Bennett's first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Winston-Salem Journal reporter literally "ate his words" about Virginia, ingesting a copy of his previous article with barbeque sauce. UNC prepared for their Duke rivalry game by reviewing tape of UVA suffocating No. 18 Clemson 61–36; Joel Berry II explained, "We want to be like [Virginia] defensively." UVA attained its first AP No. 1 ranking since 1982. With a 66–37 victory at Pitt, Virginia won its third outright regular season title in five years. The Cavaliers won the 2018 ACC Tournament by defeating North Carolina 71–63. UVA earned the first overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, only to lose ACC Sixth Man of the Year De'Andre Hunter to a broken wrist. The injury led the New York Daily News to change their pick from Virginia winning the national championship to not advancing out of the Sweet Sixteen. Virginia then notoriously lost to UMBC in the opening round, the first time since expansion to 64 teams in 1985 that a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 16, in a South regional that became the first to not advance any of its top four seeds to the Sweet Sixteen. Bennett's reaction was featured in Inc. magazine as a lesson in emotional intelligence and leadership. ACC peer Jim Boeheim called Bennett's detractors after the loss "probably unemployed or idiots" and said if he "could hire a coach in this country and get Tony Bennett, there would be nobody in second place." For guiding an unranked team with low expectations to win both the ACC regular season and ACC tournament, Bennett won a third Henry Iba Award.
Bennett, a former NBA player himself, has often developed his players into All-Americans and NBA draft picks. His stellar reputation for player and personal development is such that an opposing coach told CBS Sports that Bennett "gets the bigger picture that it's more than just basketball, and his players develop at a high level and become pros." Many of his players have gone on to play for pro teams in the NBA and in professional league worldwide. Bennett's methods of recruiting and development have been compared to the San Antonio Spurs (because of that NBA franchise's commitment to unselfishness and team success under Coach Popovich).
Malcolm Brogdon, an unheralded college recruit, was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2017 after five years (with an injury redshirt) under Bennett. In total, seven of Bennett's players at Virginia and Washington State have been drafted into the NBA. Of these, none were consensus top 40 recruits or McDonald's All-Americans before playing for Bennett.
- 2018 NBA draft — Devon Hall, 53rd overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder
- 2016 NBA draft — Malcolm Brogdon, 36th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks
- 2015 NBA draft — Justin Anderson, 21st overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks
- 2014 NBA draft — Joe Harris, 33rd overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2012 NBA draft — Mike Scott, 43rd overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks
- 2011 NBA draft — Klay Thompson, 11th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors (*)
- 2008 NBA draft — Kyle Weaver, 38th overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats
(*) Klay Thompson developed in his freshman season under Bennett and then two more under Ken Bone.
Bennett players to play in professional basketball leagues around the globe include Darion Atkins, Mustapha Farrakhan Jr., Anthony Gill, Sylven Landesberg, Jerome Meyinsse, Laurynas Mikalauskas, Akil Mitchell, Austin Nichols, London Perrantes, Taylor Rochestie, Mike Tobey, and Sammy Zeglinski.
First Team All-American
- Malcolm Brogdon, 2016
Second Team All-American
- Malcolm Brogdon, 2015
Third Team All-American
- Darion Atkins, 2015
- Malcolm Brogdon, 2016
Head coaching record
Bennett has the second-highest winning percentage in UVA history (after Henry Lannigan, hired 104 years prior as the first Virginia basketball coach) and also the highest winning percentage in Washington State history. Bennett has thus far led the Cavaliers to two ACC Tournament titles and three outright regular season ACC championship seasons.
|Washington State Cougars (Pacific-10 Conference) (2006–2009)|
|2006–07||Washington State||26–8||13–5||2nd||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2007–08||Washington State||26–9||11–7||3rd||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|2008–09||Washington State||17–16||8–10||7th||NIT First Round|
|Washington State:||69–33 (.676)||32–22 (.593)|
|Virginia Cavaliers (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2009–present)|
|2011–12||Virginia||22–10||9–7||T–4th||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|2013–14||Virginia||30–7||16–2||1st||NCAA Division I Sweet 16|
|2014–15||Virginia||30–4||16–2||1st||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2015–16||Virginia||29–8||13–5||T–2nd||NCAA Division I Elite Eight|
|2016–17||Virginia||23–11||11–7||T–5th||NCAA Division I Round of 32|
|2017–18||Virginia||31–3||17–1||1st||NCAA Division I Round of 64|
|Virginia:||219–86 (.718)||105–51 (.673)|
Postseason invitational champion
Against the ACC
Bennett has been called the ACC's "landlord" by national media, and has drawn great praise from even his most heated of conference rivals. Rick Pitino of Louisville, who finished a memorable career 1–5 against Bennett, said "there is no such thing as post play against Virginia"; similarly Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech called Bennett's system "offensively and defensively elite." The only ACC opposition Bennett's teams have struggled significantly against in the regular season is Mike Krzyzewski and Duke, whom Bennett is 1–0 against in the post-season (the 2014 ACC Tournament Championship Game) but 3–9 against overall. In contrast, Bennett is 113–49 against the other 13 programs of the ACC, including 26–12 against the rest of previously dominant Tobacco Road and 27–11 in official ACC rivalry games versus Louisville, Maryland*, and Virginia Tech.
|ACC Rival||Wins||Losses||Win %|
|ACC Opponent||Wins||Losses||Win %|
|Total (as of March 3, 2018)||105||51||.673|
|ACC Tournament Record||11||7||.611|
*Maryland is no longer in the ACC after the 2013–14 season. This record includes ACC-Big Ten Challenge games after that year for the former ACC rivals.
These former assistant coaches of Bennett have become head coaches at the collegiate level.
Family and personal life
The best known member of a talented coaching family tree, he is the son of former Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay, and Washington State coach Dick Bennett, and brother of former Indiana Hoosiers and Northern Illinois head coach Kathi Bennett. The frustrating "pack line" defense that the younger Bennett has perfected at Virginia was first implemented in an earlier form by the elder Bennett up until Tony took over head coaching duties from his father at Washington State.
Bennett is married and has two children, one son and one daughter. Bennett met his wife Laurel (née Purcell) at a church in nearby North Carolina, while he was playing for the Charlotte Hornets. He is a Christian and would likely have become a pastor if not a college basketball coach. He has spoken about his faith saying, "When you have a relationship with the Lord, there’s a peace and perspective you have. The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away." Bennett also has cited his faith as impacting his coaching philosophy, in particular his use of his father's "Five Pillars": humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness.
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