Virginia coach Tony Bennett is outspoken about his Christian faith and how it shapes his work with players. During the 2019 NCAA tournament, Bennett noted his faith helps him through stressful situations in games.
“You certainly feel things – things bother you, but where does peace and perspective come from? And I always tell our guys: It’s got to be something that is unconditional,” Bennett said, per Christian Headlines. “And 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. That’s, for me, where I draw my strength from – my peace, my steadiness in the midst of things.”
Bennett committed to being a Christian while he was attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp when he was 14, per Decision magazine. The Virginia coach emphasizes five pillars to his players, and the tenets have become a staple of the Virginia program. Bennett drew upon Biblical principals to create the five pillars: humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness. Former Virginia player Joe Harris spoke with Decision magazine about the impact these pillars have had on his life beyond basketball.
“You can apply those pillars to the rest of your life, not just basketball,” Harris noted to Decision. “I always tell people that being at Virginia with coach Bennett helped me in a huge developmental standpoint as a basketball player, but that I developed even more as a person.”
Bennett Enjoys Working With Players From All Faith Backgrounds
While Bennett’s beliefs help center him, the Virginia coach realizes that some of his players may not share the same faith. Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan’s nephew, Mustapha Farrakhan, played for Bennett and noted his ability to bring people together regardless of their background.
“You could say that about any other school when somebody commits and they’re a Muslim or a Jew or anything,” Farrakhan explained to Daily Progress. “It really doesn’t matter. It’s just college basketball. People come together and play.”
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is an admirer of the way Bennett runs his program.
“He leads his own life in a way that’s easy to follow,” Krzyzewski told Decision. “He practices what he teaches. When a teacher does that, the students usually do it a lot better. He doesn’t think of himself as better than anybody. I really like that humility [from] a very successful person, when they show [it] and it’s genuine.”
Bennett Met His Wife, Laurel, Through Church
In 2016, Bennett spoke at Needle’s Eye Ministries’ 40th-anniversary gala. You can watch the video of him speaking about his faith, family and the importance of religion in his life. You can read more about at needleseye.org.
Not only does Bennett’s faith help him as the Virginia coach, it played a major role in connecting him with his wife, Laurel. The couple met at church where she was involved as a youth leader. She noted how she sees her husband’s faith impact their relationship.
“He writes specific things that he says he appreciates about me as a wife, as a mom, as a Christian,” Laurel Bennett explained to Decision. “He takes time to notice the little things, and he’s not vague. He’s always good about making me feel loved.”