Home UVA’s Tony Bennett can commiserate with Ritchie McKay’s struggles at Liberty

UVA’s Tony Bennett can commiserate with Ritchie McKay’s struggles at Liberty

Chris Graham
tony bennett ritchie mckay ron sanchez
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia is struggling, and down Route 29, Liberty, coached by Ritchie McKay, the former long-time Tony Bennett assistant, is on a rough patch of its own, losing three straight.

It’s rare for one or the other to be behind the 8-ball, but both, yeah.

“He’s not used to probably being in that spot,” Bennett said, answering a question from a reporter on his weekly ACC teleconference on Monday. “But they’re really good. They have some veterans, and I’m sure they’ll get it going.”

The reporter wanted to get insight from Bennett into what coaches tell their teams when they’re scuffling like UVA and Liberty are right now.

“What does any coach say? I mean, you can, it’s, whatever we say to you is, it matters, because I think there is a good message, but it’s how we are and how we act towards the young men in our program, and what we’re instilling into them and how we’re trying to to get the most out of them. But what else can you say is, what you get after the process, do you see quality?” Bennett said.

Bennett was also asked to weigh in on heartfelt comments from McKay after Liberty’s most recent loss, an 80-76 OT setback at Louisiana Tech on Sunday, which dropped the Flames to an 11-7 mark on the season.

“I’m really proud of our guys. I think our fight was tremendous. A lot of people will be disappointed and will write us off. This is a group worth supporting. I love them. I love being at Liberty, too, because we get to remember that God is always doing something good,” McKay said. “This is good for us. It’s really good for us to remember how hard it is to earn victory. It’s good for us to remember that when people praise us, that’s one thing, and when they criticize us, that’s another. We have to keep operating out of our true identity. Our fight, our togetherness, our toughness, it was evident. This group will keep responding. All of us have to get better as a program in order to compete for the top, but we have the right people in the room.”

Bennett, on the teleconference, copped to not knowing what McKay had said, but not surprisingly, it wasn’t that much different from what Bennett had said earlier in the call about his team.

“This is part of our journey, and this is producing some good stuff, whether you see it now, whether you see it the next game or later on this year, who knows,” Bennett had said, of the struggles his own team is facing. “And then when we apply it, but you know, it’s, our program has been at a high level of experience, and right now, OK, we’re not off to a great conference start. It’s a mature league, and it’s a, it’s a good league. And there’s still a lot of games left, but you’re at a little different spot of building it up again.”

Now, back to Bennett’s thoughts on McKay:

“He was a huge part of our success, you know, with the recruiting and his coaching, him and, you know, Ron (Sanchez) is back and obviously, got our staff, Jason (Williford), and now our current staff, but yeah, that’s, yeah, he’s not used to that, he’s kind of owned his conference. And so, you know, it’ll challenge him.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].