Home Don’t worry, ‘Hoos: Tony Bennett ain’t leavin’ UVa.

Don’t worry, ‘Hoos: Tony Bennett ain’t leavin’ UVa.


tony bennett1Wahoo Nation is in a lather over the news, or lack thereof, regarding UVa. basketball coach Tony Bennett and his contract status.

Bennett, currently making $1.7 million a year before incentives, sixth in the 15-team ACC, and $600,000 a year below what the new Virginia Tech coach, Buzz Williams, is getting paid to coach the last-place team in the conference, hasn’t signed an extension with the expected massive raise that Virginia fans want to see him given so he doesn’t think about going anywhere.

So why hasn’t he signed? Well, Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage isn’t talking, silence that says a lot, considering how much he has to say about his massively underwhelming football coach Mike London. So speculation is all we have, and the talk on Grounds is that there’s nothing to worry about, that Bennett is focused on getting raises for his assistants, and that anyway, he wouldn’t want a lot of hoopla about any extension when it would get done, because he’s not that kind of guy.

None of this is stopping the Nation from its lather, for good reason. Virginia won 30 games in 2013-2014, won the ACC regular season, won the ACC Tournament for the first time since the Bicentennial, went to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995, and with seven of its top nine players returning, a point guard coming off a redshirt, a recruiting class that is one of the best in recent memory in Charlottesville, and SO JUST GET IT FRIGGIN’ DONE ALREADY!

Ahem. That’s the general mood of Virginia basketball fans, who are no doubt not happy seeing columns by NBA insiders suggesting that Bennett is getting interest from NBA teams with open jobs.

Reality check on the NBA thing: if an NBA team wanted Bennett, and it was all about money, UVa. couldn’t compete in the slightest. NBA coaches are $5 million a year and up commodities; the best Virginia is going to be able to do for Bennett is close to $3 million, and that’s probably stretching it.

And then there’s the matter of whether Bennett would even want to coach in the NBA. You have to ask the question: does what Tony Bennett does to scheme a basketball game seem at all applicable to the NBA? His Virginia teams are efficient on offense and defense, among the most efficient in the country on both ends in 2013-2014, but the efficiency is based in large part on controlling tempo. This year’s Cavs were expert at frustrating teams with long possessions ending in scores on offense and tough on the ball defense that literally wore out opponent after opponent.

It’s a demanding system for a college team with players recruited to it who play a 30- to 35-game season. NBA players with a variety of skillsets making millions of dollars a year might not buy in the way Bennett has been able to get his guys in Virginia to do, and even so, how would an NBA team hold up playing his style of ball for 82 games plus the playoffs?

Another question might soon be applicable in college ball: regarding the shot clock. Bennett’s teams run clock with the best of them, but with the NCAA considering a 24-second shot clock, down from the current 35, you have to wonder if that might not alter the game planning for Bennett if and when that were to happen.

So don’t worry, Nation, about the NBA. Another school in the NCAA, that’s another matter. The ACC could very well be Tony Bennett’s conference, unless he sees another opportunity at another school in another conference, in which case he will one day run the day in the Big 10 or Pac 10 or wherever else he might land.

The ball is in Craig Littlepage’s court. Gitrdone.

– Column by Chris Graham



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