Tony Bennett (basketball)

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Tony Bennett
Bennett copy.jpg
Bennett at the Barclays Center
Sport(s) Basketball
Current position
Title Head coach
Team Virginia
Conference ACC
Record 180–75 (.706)
Annual salary $2.1 million[1]
Biographical details
Born (1969-06-01) June 1, 1969 (age 47)
Clintonville, Wisconsin[2]
Playing career
1988–1992 Green Bay
1992–1995 Charlotte Hornets
1996–1997 North Harbour Vikings
1997 Sydney Kings
Position(s) Point guard
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1998–1999 North Harbour Kings
1999–2003 Wisconsin (asst.)
2003–2004 Washington State (asst.)
2004–2006 Washington State (assoc. HC)
2006–2009 Washington State
2009–present Virginia
2013 USA U-19 national team (asst.)
Head coaching record
Overall 249–108 (.697)
Tournaments NCAA: 9–6 (.600)
NIT: 2–2 (.500)
Accomplishments and honors
ACC regular season championships (2014, 2015)
ACC Tournament championship (2014)
Henry Iba Award (2007, 2015)
Naismith College Coach of the Year (2007)
AP National Coach of the Year (2007)
ACC Coach of the Year (2014, 2015)
Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2007)
2x USBWA District 3 Coach of the Year (2015, 2016)
Academic All-American (1991, 1992)
Men's Basketball Academic All-American of the Year (1991)
Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (1992)
MCC Player of the Year (1991, 1992)
Tied single-season win records at both Virginia and Washington State

Anthony Guy "Tony" Bennett (born June 1, 1969) is the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball team since March 31, 2009. Bennett is regarded as the best defensive coach in the NCAA according to a 2015 CBS Sports survey of opposing coaches[3] and his offensive system is also praised as one of the most efficient and elite.[4][5][6] He is a rare two-time winner of the prestigious Henry Iba Award for the nation's top coach as voted by the USBWA, and has won similar awards from the AP and Naismith.

Bennett is the only ACC coach to win 16 conference games in consecutive seasons, and one of three in ACC history to enjoy back-to-back 30-win seasons overall.[7] His Cavaliers won the 2014 ACC Tournament championship over Duke. Bennett shares school records for single-season wins at both Virginia and Washington State, and won six major coaching awards in 2007 to break the Pac-12 record set by legend John Wooden at UCLA in 1972.[8] He was the first coach to defeat all five Hall of Fame coaches active as of the 2014–15 season.[9][10]

As a player, Bennett ranks first in college basketball history for career three-point field goal accuracy, at 49.7%, peaking at 53.3% in 1990–91.[11][12] He was awarded the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in 1992 as the nation's top player under six feet tall, and was simultaneously honored as the nation's Academic All-American of the Year for his academic achievements.[11] Bennett left college as his conference's all-time leader in both points and assists before playing three years for the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA and several more in Australia and New Zealand, where he started coaching.[11]


Playing career[edit]


Bennett's retired #25 hangs in the rafters of the Resch Center, the home court of the Green Bay Phoenix. Bennett holds 1st place all-time for the Phoenix in both scoring and assists.

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. While there, the Bennetts led the Phoenix to an NCAA Tournament berth and two appearances in the NIT. During his time there, the Phoenix had a record of 87–34 (.719) en route to Bennett being named conference player of the year twice. He won 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). He still ranks as the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point field goal accuracy, at 49.7%.[12]


Bennett went on to be picked in the second round of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He spent three seasons (19921995) with the Hornets before a foot injury abruptly 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.[13] 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.[14] In early 1997, Bennett also had a short stint with the Sydney Kings of Australia's National Basketball League.[15][16]

Coaching career[edit]

New Zealand and Wisconsin[edit]

In 1998, Bennett stopped playing for North Harbour but kept coaching them. After the 1999 season, he returned to the United States. He agreed to become the manager for his father's Wisconsin team so that they could spend time together.[13] He had discovered his knack for coaching during his time in New Zealand.[17] 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.[17]

After his father retired, Bo Ryan retained Bennett on his staff. Bennett remained with the Badgers until 2003, when his father came out of retirement to coach Washington State.

Washington State[edit]

Bennett coaching Washington State

In 2004, Bennett was designated as his father's successor, being promoted from an assistant coach to an associate head coach,[18] and he inherited the position of head coach at Washington State University when his father retired after the 2005–06 NCAA season.

His 26 wins in both the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons each tied the Washington State school record set by the 1940–41 team[19] that lost in the championship game of that year's NCAA tournament.

2006–07: school record 26 wins[edit]

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 #3 seed and defeated Oral Roberts in the opening round before falling to Vanderbilt in double overtime in the second round.[20] Bennett tied the WSU school record for wins. The NCAA tournament appearance was the first for the Cougars since 1994.

After the 2006–07 season, Bennett was named the AP college basketball Coach of the Year[21] and the Naismith College Coach of the Year. He also won the prestigious Henry Iba Award by vote of the United States Basketball Writers Association, and was named the Coach of the Year.[22]

2007–08: tying the record[edit]
They should put up a statue of him at Washington State. To win like he did there in that program, told me right away the kid is a winner.
–ESPN's Dick Vitale, Mar. 2016[23]

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 in the first round and Notre Dame in the second.[24] After losing to North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen, Bennett's team had tied the school record for wins, with 26, for the second consecutive season.


Bennett was named head coach at Virginia on March 31, 2009.[25] Ritchie McKay, head coach of the Liberty Flames, stepped down to become Bennett's associate head coach, returning to his position six years later and replaced in 2015 with former Wisconsin coach Brad Soderberg.[26] In their first season the Cavaliers 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).[27]

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 and 16–2. In 2014, Bennett became the first ACC coach to win 16 conference games in a single season since Mike Krzyzewski at Duke in 1999, and in 2015 Bennett became the first coach ever to win 16 ACC games in consecutive seasons.

Bennett's teams are known for their strong defense. This is mainly due to his version of the "pack line" defense first devised by his father. It is designed to clog up potential driving lanes to the paint by forcing ball handlers to the middle of the floor, where the "help" is concentrated.[28]

2013–14: ACC regular season title and ACC Tournament Championship[edit]

In 2013–14, Bennett led the Cavaliers to their sixth ACC regular season title, clinching it with a statement 75–56 home win against highly touted ACC newcomer #4 Syracuse, a team which had started the season 25–0. It was also their first outright regular season title since 1981, and only the fifth time since then that a team from North Carolina had not won at least a share of the title. Virginia also won its second-ever ACC Tournament title (their first since 1976), defeating second-seeded #7 Duke in the final game, 72–63. The Cavaliers received their third (but first since 1983) #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,[29] as well as runner-up for AP Coach of the Year.[30]

On June 3, 2014, Bennett signed a new seven-year contract to extend his employment with Virginia through at least 2021. It included a $1.924 million base salary package, with additional longevity and achievement bonuses.[31] Part of his contract negotiations included long-term contract renewals for his staff.[32]

A guy who just oozes class, great guy, knows how to recruit his kids, develop his type of kids, coach his kids, just an unbelievable job he’s doing in Charlottesville.
–CBS Sports' Seth Davis, Jan. 2015[33]
2014–15: repeat ACC season title and second Henry Iba Award[edit]

In the 2014–15 season, Virginia was ranked ninth in the country by the Associated Press in the pre-season, and got off to a 19–0 start, reaching as high as #2 nationally for the first time since 1982–83, behind similarly-undefeated Kentucky. The record included road wins at several ranked opponents' home courts, including at Maryland, at VCU, at Notre Dame, and at North Carolina. Much was made in the press that out of the top three teams 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.[34][35] Other highlights included holding Rutgers, Harvard, and Georgia Tech to under thirty points each, and "doubling up" (scoring twice the points of) both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest; the only other ACC team to accomplish that even once was Duke in 1955.[36] The Harvard game was also notable for Virginia's limiting the Crimson (an NCAA Tournament team) to a single field goal in the first half, tying an NCAA record for the shot clock era.[37]

A win over Rick Pitino's Louisville in a new official ACC rivalry game made Bennett the first to defeat all five Naismith Hall of Fame coaches active at that time. The score was 52-47.[9] The team finished 30–4 with a second straight NCAA Tournament loss to the Final Four bound Michigan State Spartans, after star player Justin Anderson's struggles to recover from a broken finger suffered in the Louisville game and a painful appendectomy. The team finished 16–2 in the ACC for the second consecutive year, winning UVA's seventh ACC season title. Only Duke and North Carolina have more.

After the season, Bennett became the ninth coach since voting began in 1958 to win a second Henry Iba Award as the nation's top coach from the United States Basketball Writers Association. Only John Wooden has won it more times. On May 1, 2015, Bennett signed a new contract good through 2024 with annual guaranteed pay of $2.1 million in the first year and 5 percent automatic yearly increases. There is a $3.0 million buyout provision through March 2018.[1]

2015–16: Elite Eight and 29 wins[edit]

Anderson forewent his senior season as a first round draft pick by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 NBA Draft. Virginia, earlier picked as the pre-season #1 team in the country by CBS Sports, then dropped to #7 in an updated pre-season iteration as ACC rival North Carolina moved to #1.[38][39] Though starting the season with a road loss at George Washington, UVA rebounded for impressive out-of-conference victories on the road at Ohio State, against West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic, and at home against California and the year's eventual NCAA Champion, Villanova. Each of these opponents was ranked in the AP Top 15 either on the day of the game or in the pre-season poll.[40] The large number of home-and-away series with such top programs from other power conferences (Villanova of the Big East, West Virginia of the Big 12, and California of the Pac-12) is virtually unprecedented in the ACC.[40] In this season, Bennett was recognized for having one of the most efficient offenses in the nation as well as one of the best defenses again.[4][5]

ESPN writer Jeff Goodman chose Bennett as the ideal head coach of his mythical college basketball Dream Team before the season, stating "I'm going with Bennett, who is in his mid 40s and 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."[41] The team would go on to defeat Iowa State in Niang's final collegiate game in the year's Sweet Sixteen, before Bennett's first ever loss (starting 3–0) against Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim and Syracuse in the Elite Eight. The Midwest regional championship game against Syracuse ended similarly to how the earlier game against West Virginia in Madison Square Garden began, in which UVA was hurt rapidly for a short time by a full-court press but dominated most of the rest of the game.


Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, and Mike Tobey have exhausted their eligibility, but UVA brings in a well-rounded recruiting class including Bennett's first McDonald's All-American in Kyle Guy. Additionally, Memphis transfer Austin Nichols and Mamadi Diakite (redshirt) are both eligible after sitting out the 2015-2016 season. Nichols, however, was dismissed from the Virginia team after playing only one game.[42]

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Washington State Cougars[43] (Pacific-10 Conference) (2006–2009)
2006–07 Washington State 26–8 13–5 2nd NCAA Round of 32
2007–08 Washington State 26–9 11–7 3rd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2008–09 Washington State 17–16 8–10 7th NIT First Round
Washington State: 69–33 (.676) 32–22 (.593)
Virginia Cavaliers[44] (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2009–present)
2009–10 Virginia 15–16 5–11 T–9th
2010–11 Virginia 16–15 7–9 T–7th
2011–12 Virginia 22–10 9–7 T–4th NCAA Round of 64
2012–13 Virginia 23–12 11–7 T–4th NIT Quarterfinals
2013–14 Virginia 30–7 16–2 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2014–15 Virginia 30–4 16–2 1st NCAA Round of 32
2015–16 Virginia 29–8 13–5 T–2nd NCAA Elite Eight
2016–17 Virginia 15–3 5–2
Virginia: 180–75 (.706) 82–45 (.646)
Total: 249–108 (.697)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Against the ACC[edit]

After inheriting a 10–18 team in 2009, Bennett's win percentage in conference play is the highest in UVA history, and he has drawn great praise from even his most heated of conference rivals. Rick Pitino of Louisville said "there is no such thing as post play against Virginia" on the eve of a home loss to start 1–4 against Bennett, and similarly Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech called Bennett's system "offensively and defensively elite."[45][6]

ACC Rivalry Games
ACC Rival Wins Losses Win %
Louisville 4 1 .800
Maryland * 7 4 .636
Virginia Tech 10 4 .714
Other ACC Games
ACC Opponent Wins Losses Win %
Boston College 7 4 .636
Clemson 8 3 .727
Duke 2 8 .200
Florida State 6 7 .462
Georgia Tech 9 2 .818
Miami 6 5 .545
North Carolina 5 6 .455
NC State 9 2 .818
Notre Dame 4 0 1.000
Pittsburgh 4 1 .800
Syracuse 3 1 .750
Wake Forest 6 3 .667
TOTAL (as of January 21, 2016) 82 45 .646
ACC Tournament Record 7 6 .538

*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.

Player development[edit]


Bennett has developed several Virginia Cavaliers into winning NCAA All-America honors or other nationwide awards.


Bennett, a former NBA player himself, has seen several of his players at Virginia and Washington State be drafted into the league.

Family and Personal life[edit]

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.[28]

Bennett is married and has two children, one son and one daughter. Bennett met his wife at a church in nearby North Carolina, while he was playing for the Charlotte Hornets.[46] He is a Christian, and 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."[47] 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.[46]


  1. ^ a b Doughty, Doug (July 7, 2015). "New contract loaded with incentives for UVa basketball coach Tony Bennett to stick around". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Game 14 vs. NC State, Charlottesville, Va. (John Paul Jones Arena)" (PDF). p. 2. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Candid Coaches: Who is the best defensive coach in college basketball?, accessed August 24, 2015
  4. ^ a b Cal Men Face Stiff Challenge in No. 5 Virginia, accessed December 25, 2015
  5. ^ a b How Defensive Powerhouse Virginia Built the Nation's Best Offense, accessed December 25, 2015
  6. ^ a b Tech's Allen Seeks Moment of Glory against UVA, accessed January 7, 2016
  7. ^ Mentioned by Jim Nance during the TruTV broadcast of the Virginia-Belmont Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game (the other two are Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams)
  8. ^ Tony Bennett tabbed for six major coaching honors, accessed February 5, 2015
  9. ^ a b "Postgame Notes - #3 Virginia 52, #9 Louisville 47". 7 February 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  10. ^ The five are Jim Boeheim, Larry Brown, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, and Roy Williams.
  11. ^ a b c [1], accessed February 5, 2015
  12. ^ a b 2016-17 NCAA Men's Basketball Records - Division I, p.2 – Individual Records
  13. ^ a b Turnabout for Bennett and Cougars
  14. ^ "2015 Bartercard NBL Handbook" (PDF). pp. 28–34. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Kings emerge from a pack of jokers
  16. ^ Coach's Profile: Tony Bennett
  17. ^ a b Coaching was a Path Virginia's Bennett Once Resisted, accessed February 8, 2015
  18. ^ Family Afffair: Bennett to hand job to son - Men's College Basketball - ESPN
  19. ^ Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Washington State Cougars - NCAA Tournament Game - Recap - March 22, 2008 - ESPN
  20. ^ Washington State Cougars Basketball 2006-07 Schedule - Cougars Home and Away - ESPN
  21. ^ Washington State's Bennett second rookie AP Coach of the Year - NCAA Division I Mens Basketball - News, Scores, Stats, Schedule and RPI Rankings
  22. ^ College Basketball - Coach of the Year: Tony Bennett
  23. ^ Vitale thinks Bennett is a perfect fit at UVa, accessed March 8, 2016
  24. ^ Washington State Cougars Basketball 2007-08 Schedule - Cougars Home and Away - ESPN
  25. ^ Washington State coach Bennett headed to Virginia - ESPN
  26. ^ McKay's departure stuns LU | The News & Advance
  27. ^ Virginia Cavaliers Schedule - 2009-10, accessed November 10, 2012
  28. ^ a b Koremenos, Brett. Pack-Line Progeny. Grantland, 2015-01-14.
  29. ^ Coleman, Scott (20 March 2014). "Naismith Coach of the Year finalists announced". SB Nation. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  30. ^ Hudtloff, Marty (23 April 2014). "Tony Bennett Runner-Up for AP Coach of the Year Award". WVIR. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  31. ^ "Tony Bennett Receives New 7-Year Contract". 3 June 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  32. ^ Goldberg, Rob (3 June 2014). "Tony Bennett Signs 7-Year Contract with Virginia Cavaliers". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Seth Davis says U-Va.’s Tony Bennett is the new Brad Stevens, accessed January 8, 2016
  34. ^ Parrish, Gary (December 30, 2014). "Virginia's Bennett has Built a Contender in an Unconventional Way". CBS Sports. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  35. ^ Bozich, Rick (January 27, 2015). "Five Reasons #2 Virginia is not #1 Kentucky". WDRB. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  36. ^ Chase, Chris (March 3, 2015). "Why UVA basketball is so impressive (and NOT boring)". Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  37. ^ Reid, Whitey (22 December 2014). "No. 6 Virginia hammers Harvard in historic fashion". The Daily Progress. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  38. ^ Virginia Headlines Preseason Top 25, accessed September 9, 2015
  39. ^ UNC moves to No. 1 in Preseason Top 25, accessed September 9, 2015
  40. ^ a b Virginia Cavaliers May Be Better Than Ever, accessed December 25, 2015
  41. ^ Building college basketball's Dream Team 2015–16, accessed September 9, 2015
  42. ^
  43. ^ "2011-12 Washington State Cougars men's basketball media guide, page 60" (PDF). Washington State Athletics. 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  44. ^ "2012–13 Virginia Cavaliers men's basketball media guide, page 43" (PDF). Virginia Athletics. 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  45. ^ Rick Pitino Raves About Virginia, accessed January 23, 2017
  46. ^ a b Teel, David (March 20, 2015). "Humility, faith at core of Tony Bennett the man and coach". Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  47. ^ "Coach's Profile: Tony Bennett". 

External links[edit]