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Tony Elliott almost took the job at Duke: What led him to decide on UVA?

tony elliott
Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Tony Elliott seemingly had his choice of dream jobs – at UVA and at Duke.

“From my perspective, when I was evaluating transitioning, I wanted high academics. Both of them have high academics,” said Elliott, in his weekly presser, of course at Virginia, the job he decided to take back in December.

The two jobs were almost mirror images to Elliott.

“I wanted an opportunity to have alignment from the president, AD, down to the head coach. You look at Carla (Williams), you look at Nina (King), you look at how they’re structured, it was very similar. An opportunity to build, right? You got an opportunity to build both programs the way that you want,” Elliott said.

What it ultimately came down to for Elliott was “history.”

“There was more history and tradition here, so to speak. Not to say that Duke doesn’t have. When Coach (Steve) Spurrier was there, they had success. You knew it had been done before, it could be done again,” Elliott said.

“I think everything existed at both places. It just came down to it, when I prayed about it, I thought about it, I said, OK, you know what, if I’m going to make the decision, I’m going to take myself out of it, what’s best for the staff. When I looked at it. If I’m going to build an opportunity, I felt like there were more things in place right now here to be successful in the short-term.”

Mike Elko ended up getting the job at Duke after Elliott chose UVA. Elliott said he had wanted to target Elko to be on his staff “just because of the tremendous amount of respect that I had for him competing against him while he was at Wake Forest, then Texas A&M.”

“Just seeing him around, you know that he’s first a quality human being, just a great guy, good family guy, kind of came up the hard way, real blue-collar. I think he understands what it takes. He’s been to the highest level. He was at Texas A&M, Wake Forest. He’s done well,” Elliott said.

And to date, Elko’s Dukies have done a smidge better than Elliott’s ‘Hoos. Duke is sitting at 3-1 heading into Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game with Virginia (2-2).

Vegas has Duke as a three-point favorite.

A reporter asked Elliott if he was concerned about there being a “bulletin board” aspect to the matchup this week given how the job situation worked out.

“I’m not a bulletin board guy. I’m not a stat guy. I don’t pay attention to those things,” Elliott said. “Like I said, never trying to be disrespectful to anybody. I mean, if you know me, you’re close to me, you understand how torn I was between the two institutions, making the decision. If that’s what they want to use, I mean, I understand that. But I will never be disrespectful to another program. Just transparent. People ask the question, and I just want to be transparent.

“Also, too, hopefully you look at, Man, the guy really did consider Duke. That could be the perspective that you look at, because there were a lot of people that didn’t think that I actually was considering Duke. I really, really was considering going to Duke, then Virginia came in and kind of gave me something else to think about. That’s how it transpired.

“If they want to use that, man, so be it. At the end of the day, right, we got to spot the ball. That’s what I got to get this team to understand is it’s a game of emotion, but you got to be careful being emotional, right? You got to play with passion, you got to play with pride, got to play with intensity, but your single motivation can’t be something emotional, right? You got to play from an internal emotion that comes from the joy of playing the game. That’s what I’m trying to get these guys to access, because then you can access it every single game, not just when you have bulletin board material because not everybody is going to give you bulletin board material.

“Hopefully people hear this and realize I’m not taking any shots at anybody,” Elliott said. “There was really, really serious consideration. Very, very grateful to Nina (King) and her belief in me. At the end of the day, there were some deciding factors that went all the way down to the wire that led me to the decision that I had to make. I wish them nothing but the best. Like I said, a big fan of Coach Elko. I want to see them be successful except for one game a year, and that’s when we play them.”

Chris Graham

I write books, two on UVA basketball, one on pro wrestling, one on politics, which is getting to be like pro wrestling more and more each day. I've finished three marathons, but I'm over that. Oh, and I'm a progressive who voted for Biden, but I'm over that, too. (We need somebody else in 2024!) Want to reach me? Try [email protected]