Bennett: ‘You have to protect the program’

Column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net
 

The Love Affair with Tony Bennett hit a rocky point for Cavalier fans, looking back on it now, sometime around the snowstorm that sent the 14-7 UVa. team back home from Maryland and set up a killer stretch of games that eventually knocked the ‘Hoos from NCAA Tournament contention.

Losing 10 of the last 11, then losing star sophomore Sylven Landesberg and heralded freshman Tristan Spurlock, has pushed some in Wahoo Nation to the brink of wanting to maybe re-evaluate the ol’ relationship.

But the cool Bennett is taking things to that end in stride.

“Certainly Sylven and his family thought long and hard about it. As far as I was concerned, he was welcome back, as I’ve said before, but I think he just felt this was the right time for him. Obviously you wish him well. Right team, right time, right place – those things are all important in this process when you decide to pursue playing,” Bennett said of what appears to have been the most devastating loss of the 2009-2010 season for his UVa. program, that involving Landesberg’s announcement this week that he will not be returning for his junior season to pursue a professional career.

The writing was on the wall for that move, and the decision of Spurlock to seek other opportunities, though, a lot sooner than those of us on the outside realized.

“I don’t know if there was a point in time where we said, Yep, this is absolutely going to happen. But there’s a lot of things that are some known, some unknown to the outside, issues that your program is doing to protect the program,” Bennett said.

“Some of them are going to decide to go pro. There’s academic issues. There’s players that are probably going to consider leaving if they think there’s better opportunities elsewhere, if there’s not a fit. So there are a number of scenarios that you look at, and that’s something that I think you’re always as a staff – you never can assume that everything is going to be in place each year,” Bennett said.

Which is why the seemingly curious move of Bennett to recruit a big incoming freshman class – six players all told – should now make some sense. The class is ranked in the top 15 nationally by Scout and Rivals.

As for what might seem to be an unusual amount of attrition this offseason to some fans, Bennett said it has been his experience over the years that moves involving a player or two or three are not uncommon.

And that’s probably so – but your star player and your top freshman recruit?

That could be hard to get used to.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by May 15, 2019, and expected to retail for $25.
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The book, with additional reporting by Scott Ratcliffe and Zach Pereles, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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