Does what Tony Bennett does well translate to the NBA?

tony bennett national champsThere has been some wailing and gnashing of teeth in Wahoo Nation today over our Tony Bennett, in the context of Michigan coach John Beilein, and him going to the NBA.

If Beilein, at 66, has the eyes of an NBA front office, then, surely, Bennett, at 49, with a national championship, is going to have his suitors.

We UVA fans like to tell ourselves, but, sure, they might want him, but, would the interest be mutual?

I wouldn’t dare to try to guess what might be going on in the head of Tony Bennett in that respect. I’d presume that, yes, if someone came along with the right offer, in the right situation, he’d have to at least give it some thought.

I presume that’s what we saw happen with Beilein, who, again, at 66, might have been thinking, I may not get the chance to turn down an NBA job again, at my age.

So, then, we tell ourselves, OK, so Tony might be interested, but let’s revisit that thing about the NBA being interested in Tony.

Would an NBA front office look at Tony Bennett and say, what he does would work for us in the NBA?

First, to the X’s and O’s. Most of you reading this are UVA basketball fans, so you know the stuff about keeping possessions low, running a motion offense, playing a Pack-Line defense, going hard for 40 minutes, challenging every possession.

How does that work in today’s NBA? Would players buy in enough to make a Pack-Line D system work at the NBA level? Would there be buy-in to his Mover-Blocker motion offense?

First, to the offense. I think the offensive philosophies translate better than you think. Bennett’s system emphasizes guard play, with his bigs setting screens and getting their scoring opportunities not so much in the post as in rolls to the basket and pick-and-pops.

That’s how the game is played in the NBA.

Bennett added continuity ball-screen action to great success this past season. Again, that works in the increasingly positionless NBA game.

Defensively, the Pack-Line is a good approach to trying to combat what so many teams do on the offensive side.

The hard hedge is a good foil to ball screens at the top, and the help principles on dribble-drives force the ball back out to the perimeter.

The buy-in to getting guys to play hard for 48 minutes might be the challenge for Bennett, especially on the back end of back-to-back nights, on long road trips, in the grind between the All-Star break and the end of the regular season.

The Five Pillars might also be a tough sell for a group of professionals. Bennett is almost certainly a much better motivational coach for college guys as opposed to being able to motivate NBA guys with sort of life lessons.

But, I’ll say it this way, and I hate saying it this way: if I’m an NBA general manager, president of basketball operations, whatever, I could do a lot worse than getting Tony Bennett to meet with me to talk about my open coaching position.

And then, say, I’m specifically the guy making decisions in Philadelphia, with a talented core that underachieved, dramatically, this season.

I could recycle some retread who flailed himself out of a job somewhere else, try to dream an assistant who has never sat in the big chair into being ready for the job, or go the Tony Bennett route.

Of all the nightmare scenarios that us UVA fans scheme up to make ourselves unhappy about the future, the NBA scenario makes a million times more sense in terms of being the one than the idea that he’d leave Virginia for another college job.

I hate my brain for thinking this way, incidentally.

Column by Chris Graham



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