UVa. confirms Bennett hire

It’s official – Tony Bennett is the new men’s basketball coach at the University of Virginia.
“Tony Bennett comes to the University of Virginia with a plan to build our program,” said UVa. athletics director Craig Littlepage, whose own future at the University seems to hang in the balance with the much-discussed hire, at $1.7 million a year for five years with a $500,000 signing bonus and an additional bonus of $500,000 if he completes the five-year life of the contract.

“He is an outstanding basketball coach and is a perfect fit for UVa. He has all of the needed coaching and leadership skills along with an understanding of how to succeed in a highly competitive academic and basketball environment. He has demonstrated success in the Pacific-10 Conference. His teams have beaten the elite programs in that conference and he will bring the same type of success and energy to the University of Virginia,” said Littlepage, who snagged Bennett from Washington State, where Bennett’s teams went 69-33 in his three seasons, two of which ended with NCAA Tournament bids and the school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 2008.

Bennett, 39, seems to fit the bill for what the school wanted in a new coach. He’s young, has a record of experience coaching at a BCS school, he’s had success, and he’s known as an Xs and Os coach for the intricate motion offense that he inherited from his father, former Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin and Washington State coach Dick Bennett.

Tony Bennett made the best of a situation at Washington State that isn’t exacly a basketball hotbed. UVa., with a history that includes two Final Four appearances, a conference affiliation with the ACC and one of the finer basketball arenas in the country in the John Paul Jones Arena, isn’t the kind of place where making the best of situations is acceptable, as Bennett’s predecessor, Dave Leitao, found out the hard way.

“As important as all those things are,” Bennett said, “it will be about the people and the family atmosphere we’ll build to grow this program. When my wife and I visited, we were both very impressed with how genuine Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver (executive associate director of athletics) were – and the passion they have for the success of the men’s basketball program. I look forward to working with the young men in this program to build something special in the long term,” Bennett said.


Story by Chris Graham

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