The University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team has a habit of bouncing back from the lows that have happened during Tony Bennett’s 14-year stint as head coach. A national championship came after a tragic loss to UMBC. However, after missing the NCAA tournament last season, the Cavaliers are right back in the Associated Press’ top ten poll this year.
Virginia was ranked 18th at the start of the season, moving to number two in the country after an 8-0 start. Now, the team is the 4-seed in the South Region for the NCAA Tournament. Earlier this year, coach Bennett earned his 400th career win as a coach after a 76-67 win over Wake Forest. Bennett’s first 69 wins came while coaching Washington State before coming to UVA in 2009.
In a postgame press conference, interviewers asked Bennett why his team was so successful on the road. He replied, “We talked about before the game: simple, faithful and purposeful. Simple in terms of don’t overcomplicate this. You know what you have to do. Be faithful to who you are, your kind of true self as a team, and then do it with great purpose and passion.”
Bennett has emphasized the importance of unconditional love and shared the comforts he finds in knowing he has that through his relationship with Jesus. Before UVA’s 2019 national championship started with a win over Gardner-Webb, coach Bennett reflected on his team’s loss the previous year.
Bennett on hardships: “You certainly feel things and things bother you, but where does peace and perspective come from? I always tell our guys, it has to be something unconditional. I know I have that in the love of my family. And I know I have that in my faith.” ?⚔️? #GoHoos pic.twitter.com/8kdDivLeRC
— Virginia Men’s Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) March 21, 2019
In his pre-game media availability, Bennett said, “You certainly feel things, and things bother you, but where do peace and perspective come from? I always tell our guys it has to be something unconditional. I know I have that in the love of my family, unconditional acceptance and love. That’s huge. And I know I have that in my faith in Christ.”
He elaborated on the topic during a visit to the Sports Spectrum podcast, saying, “Those things that are unconditional — when you’re loved and accepted unconditionally — there are only a few things that can do that. The ultimate is, obviously, the unconditional love and acceptance you get through your relationship with the Lord.”
Since arriving at UVA in 2009, Bennett has led the Cavaliers to five ACC regular-season titles, eight NCAA Tournaments, and two conference tournament championships. He’s become one of the faces of ACC basketball, especially with the retirements of North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. His program is built on five pillars — humility, passion, servanthood, thankfulness and unity — and he put his core values on display in 2019 when he turned down a raise after winning the national championship.
Even in difficult moments, Bennett is determined to remain grateful to God because he knows those moments are opportunities for spiritual growth. “You have to rejoice and give thanks for what God’s doing or how you’re being equipped through the hard situations that we have,” he said on the Sports Spectrum podcast. Coach Bennett knows that anything is possible as long as he has God. Good luck to the Cavaliers!