Tony Bennett on 2021 season: ‘We’re just going to plow forward’
When the news came down on Sunday that #13 Virginia’s game with N.C. State on Wednesday was off due to COVID-19 issues in the Pack program, there was likely work going on behind the scenes to try to find the ‘Hoos a sort of a makeup game for mid-week.
I say likely, because UVA coach Tony Bennett made it sound like that was the case.
“There’s constant discussions going on about all that all the time,” Bennett answered a question on the topic in his weekly ACC coaches presser.
“I mean, you guys have no idea, well, maybe you do, but it’s just, you talk about a scramble, it gets harder as you get into conference play and jumbling stuff around, but you’re always looking, and, you know, it takes cooperation,” Bennett said. “You know, obviously, that’s, the league’s doing that, you’re doing that, the other programs are, and so absolutely, but just the way it landed, this is where it’s at. And so we’re going to play Saturday, Monday, coming up here, as opposed to this Wednesday.”
Bennett would obviously love for his team to be able to get back out on the court as soon as possible, after the Cavaliers’ eye-opening 85-50 win at then-#12 Clemson on Saturday.
But this is the Season of Our COVID-19. Virginia has already endured two COVID pauses – one a team-wide pause that lasted 10 days and led to the cancellations of marquee games against Villanova and Michigan State, another a brief break that involved a handful of coaches and players that only cost the team one game, against #16 Virginia Tech.
Bennett noted having been asked on an appearance on the talk show “Packer and Durham” on the ACC Network earlier Monday what lessons he’s learned from coaching this season.
“What it’s taught me is hope, to rely on hope, because the present is so uncertain,” Bennett said. “You don’t know, you know, you wait here, all right, what, are all the tests negative? Here we go. And you have to deal with a lot of uncertainty. So, you’re always just hopeful. Are we going to get together? Are we going to get to practice? Is it going to get better? Can we play in the future? And you learn to rely on that, and be kind of buoyed by that, so to speak, because there are challenges.”
It’s not like those involved in college hoops didn’t know what was facing them coming into the season.
“You just try to navigate it and manage the best you can, and try to be as hopeful, with the right kind of attitude. It’s all you can do,” Bennett said. “And so yeah, to feel a little bit like, I wish, that’ll take you down some dark holes. And sometimes a pause can be good. You know, sometimes you need them for the right reasons.”
That’s the right attitude – really, the only attitude – to have, given the circumstances.
Another reporter asked Bennett to weigh in with his thoughts on if the league would be able to get its entire 20-game conference schedule in, and if it might be necessary to move the ACC Tournament back a week to allow for that.
“Yeah, I’d be naive to … I don’t know that. I just kind of go a week at a time, a day at a time, with this. I’m not sure,” Bennett said. “But yeah, now as I mentioned to on the first question, there’s a lot of talk going on, right when a game is canceled, are there other opportunities, and then you just make the most of it.
“I think we thought there’d be a lot of, you know, didn’t know how many we get. But you know, there’s just such an inconsistency. We have to sit out 10 days if there’s contact tracing, some are sitting seven, some are 14, there’s a lot of variations going on, in the way people look at it, you know, when they can play, when they can’t. Football obviously went through that, and we’re the wiser because of it.
“But as far as moving stuff back, those decisions are above me, and I’m sure are being talked about, but it seems like as of right now, we’re just going plow forward until we can’t,” Bennett said.
Story by Chris Graham