Banner year? No prancing, no dancing is the theme with UVA basketball

uva basketballUVA basketball is coming off, literally, a banner year: the first ACC Tournament championship since the Bicentennial, the first 30-win season since the early 1980s.

It took until after the home opener, a 67-39 win over Norfolk State, was over on Sunday night, for someone to get Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett to think about maybe having a ceremony to literally raise a banner marking the historic 2013-2014 season.

“That’s the first I thought about it,” Bennett said in his postgame presser. “I mean, it’s up there, they put it up there, they’re not taking it away, so that’s good enough for me. I’m happy about that. It’s too late now.”

Yeah, coach, it’s too late now, and the banner that’s up in the rafters at the John Paul Jones Arena is a bit understated anyway, a basic navy blue with the years of the program’s two ACC Tournament titles, 1976 and 2014.

You can almost guess that Bennett would have preferred not even going that far, the tone being similar to the one that long-time UVA women’s basketball coach Debbie Ryan set for her program back in its glory days, going so far once to forget the ACC Tournament trophy, so focused were her great teams on bringing home a national title.

The failure to open the 2014-2015 home schedule with a ceremony wasn’t a conscious move, said Bennett, but had thought been put to the idea, “I don’t think that’s something we would have done,” Bennett said.

The focus on Sunday was on Norfolk State, which gave Virginia everything it could handle 11 months ago. That Virginia team, on its way to later glory, had to fight, scratch and claw its way to a 66-56 win, and it didn’t take much for Bennett to remind his guys that they’d have to work to get the W.

“We used the term in the pregame. We said, No prancing and dancing. This is your home opener. You came off a road win, now you’re here,” Bennett said.

Several players confirmed that he used those actual words: “no prancing and no dancing.” Which is, of course, quintessential Tony Bennett.

“It was a business-like approach. Home opener, come out and set the tone. I think everyone responded pretty well,” said center Mike Tobey, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in the win, and then went out of his way to dismiss the idea that anybody on the team cared about whether or not there should have been a ceremony to raise a banner marking last year’s accomplishments.

“I didn’t really think about it. We’re not about that,” Tobey said.

Justin Anderson, who had a team-high 11 points in the win, said the focus of the Cavs is “to make sure that we move on from last year.”

“We celebrated with a banner last year with the team that won it, and now we’re just trying to have progress moving forward,” said Anderson, echoing the postgame comments of returning first-team All-ACC guard Malcolm Brogdon.

“If a banner is put up, that’s nice, but that’s last year, and we’re worried about this year,” Brogdon said.

The sound you hear is Bennett nodding his head at the realization that the message he preaches about no prancing, no dancing, really has sunk in.

“To get guys, teams, even really good ones, to accept that it’s a grind, that it’s blue-collar, as we say, a possession approach, that’s hard,” Bennett said.

– Column by Chris Graham. With reporting by Scott German.

         
 

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