Dick Bennett is usually too nervous to watch his son Tony coach on the sidelines for the Virginia Cavaliers. In the Final Four Saturday against Auburn, he chose not to attend, instead watching the game from his hotel room.
He got over the nerves for Monday night’s national championship at U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, as multiple people have taken pictures of him looking horribly uncomfortable.
The former Wisconsin and Washington State coach did make it inside KFC Yum! Center in Louisville for the Elite 8 matchup with Purdue. CBS’ Matt Norlander described the elder Bennett’s mood during the 80-75 overtime victory over the Boilermakers.
Seventy-five-year-old Dick Bennett is in the building. He’s almost never in the building. But this time, he made sure he was there. He wouldn’t miss this chance, not again. His borderline-crippling angst and irascibility have kept the old coach away from watching his son, in person, grow into one of the greatest leaders in college basketball.
Father and son embrace in a March moment they’ll hold onto forever.
Virginia leads at halftime over Texas Tech for a chance at the program’s first national title. If the Cavaliers hold on, expect a similar reaction from the Bennett clan.
With Virginia’s first Final Four berth since 1984, Tony and Dick made history. They are just the second father-son duo (joining Georgetown’s John Thompson and John Thompson III) to coach teams to the national semifinals.
Tony’s journey to this moment extends through his dad. Dick Bennett was a longtime high school coach in the state of Wisconsin before leading Wisconsin-Stevens Point to 173 wins in the NAIA. After that, he got Wisconsin-Green Bay to the NCAA Tournament a handful of times, including topping the Jason Kidd-led Cal Golden Bears in 1994.
Tony played guard for Dick in Green Bay, eventually earning a spot on the Charlotte Hornets. After his career ended due to a leg injury, Tony assisted his father at Wisconsin-Madison, including helping the Badgers to the Final Four in 2000.
After a short break, the two paired up at Washington State, with Tony eventually taking over the reclamation project in Pullman in 2006. His success earned him the job at Virginia in 2010. Just under a decade later, the Cavaliers are on the doorstep of history.
While the remaining 20 minutes may be tough for Dick Bennett, the euphoria of the journey from high school coach to watching his son win the title will be cathartic.