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Signed, sealed, delivered: UVA basketball fans can breathe easy

tony bennett1UVA Nation was beside itself in frustration as the weeks wore on without word of a contract extension for basketball coach Tony Bennett on the heels of only the second 30-win season and second ACC Tournament title in the program’s history in 2014.

We were saying to relax, Tony was going to be taken care of, but even we were getting a little antsy as no news was starting to look even to us as maybe the start of some bad news. Word out of Hooville was that Bennett wasn’t as interested in having Paul Jones back the armored truck to his front door as much as making sure that his assistants were taken care of, that Tony isn’t a money guy, that he’s happy in Charlottesville, happy with the situation that he’s created, and just wants to be able to build from here.

So what was the holdup? That’s what had us worried. Was an athletics department that has massively overpaid for coaching, ahem, talent in football trying to skimp on an actually successful basketball program?

Breathe. It’s taken care of.

In the end, it all played out the way we expected it to. Bennett got a modest raise, about 13 percent, still below market value at $1.924 million a year, less than what the new coach at last-place Virginia Tech, Buzz Williams, is making to turn that, you know, sleeping giant down there in Blacksburg around. (Buzz seems to think that he was hired to coach football down at Tech.) And the assistants are being taken care of, with Ritchie McKay, Jason Williford and Ron Sanchez all getting nice raises.

Now the focus can turn back to the court, where the ‘Hoos will look to defend their ACC regular-season and tournament titles with seven of their top nine contributors returning along with a talented incoming freshman class and the addition of a redshirt freshman point guard who may very well come in and start after sitting out the 2013-2014 season.

The scary thing: only one of those guys who will play key minutes in 2014-2015, Darion Atkins, will do so as a senior. Meaning everybody will be back yet again in 2015-2016.

Meaning … the present is good, the future is bright. UVA hoops is arguably in the best place it’s ever been, even more so than in the historic Ralph Sampson era. As good as those ‘Hoos teams were, it was built around a guy who was only going to be on Grounds at most for four years.

Yesterday’s news means UVA basketball has the guy that the current success is built around at least through 2021. And if we’re smart, and we are, when it doesn’t involve football, we’ll make sure that it’s not too long before Bennett is named coach-for-life.

– Column by Chris Graham


augusta free press
augusta free press