Not to be confused with the singer Tony Bennett, the basketball coach Tony Bennett has made quite a name for himself in a short time.
The 45-year-old has turned around two programs – Washington State and now Virginia – faster than you can say “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” That’s a reference for the other Tony Bennett fans out there.
He apparently has this coaching thing down. Bennett is the first to have defeated all 5 active Naismith Hall of Fame coaches – Jim Boeheim, Larry Brown, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, and Roy Williams.
The Virginia coach is a very religious man and met his wife Laurel at church. The couple has two children.
Here’s what you need to know about Bennett:
1. Bennett Was the Coach of the Year While at Washington State
Bennett’s first college head coaching job was at Washington State in 2006-07. In leading the Cougars to a 26-8 record and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Bennett was named Naismith and AP coach of the year. In 3 seasons in Pullman, Bennett went 69-33 overall.
Bennett was hired by Virginia for the 2009-10 season and has completely turned the program around in a short time. After going 15-16 and 16-15 in his first two years, respectively, Bennett’s Cavaliers have posted 4 consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 30-victory campaign in 2013-14. He’s won 2 straight ACC titles and is a lock for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
He signed a 7-year contract in June 2014 through the 2020-21 season. Bennett’s makes $1.924 million per season and the contract includes $1.4 million in bonuses over the life of the deal.
2. His Father Was a College Coach
Tony followed in his father’s footsteps into coaching. Dick Bennett coached Division I basketball for over 30 seasons, getting his start at Wisconsin-Green Bay, where his son played. The elder Bennett also coached Wisconsin and Washington, where Tony succeeded him.
Dick Bennett’s team made 6 NCAA Tournament appearances (3 apiece at UWGB and Wisconsin) and his 1999-2000 Badgers team made the Final Four.
Tony’s sister, Kathi Bennett, is the head women’s coach at Northern Illinois. Basketball is in the Bennett blood.
3. Bennett Uses His Father’s ‘Pack Line’ Defense
Dick Bennett was known for his defensive mind and his creation of the “Pack Line” man to man defense is used by many teams today, including his son’s.
The “Pack Line” concepts are pretty basic: clog the middle, protect the paint, prevent dribble penetration and force contested jumpers.
It doesn’t work for everyone. It works for Bennett and Virginia.
4. Bennett is the NCAA’s All-Time Leader in 3-Point FG Percentage
As a college player, Tony played for his dad at UW-Green Bay. There, the point guard was named the conference player of the year twice and led the Phoenix to a 87-34 record in his 4 years (1989-92). The above clip with the soundtrack provided by Carly Simon above will show you the game Bennett had.
Bennett is the NCAA’s all-time 3-point field goal percentage leader at 49.7%. He made 290 of 584 threes.
He averaged 19.4 points and 5.1 assists per game for his career.
Bennett won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award given to the nation’s most outstanding senior under six feet tall. Bennett stands 6-feet tall.
5. He Was Selected 35th Overall in 1992
Bennett was selected by the New Orleans Hornets in the second round (35th overall) of the 1992 NBA Draft, which saw Shaquille O’Neal taken as the top overall pick.
Bennett didn’t really pan out on the court, averaging just 3.7 points in 75 games as a rookie. The next season he scored 3.4 in 74 games and played just 3 games in 1994-95 before a foot injury ended his NBA career.
He played briefly in Australia in 1997, but it didn’t last and he took his first coaching job in 1999 at an assistant under his father at Wisconsin.