When the Virginia Cavaliers landed Tony Bennett, it came after the talented young coach had been linked to multiple other jobs in recent years. Bennett, previously with the Washington State Cougars, was in the mix for vacancies at Indiana and LSU, but he opted to remain where his head coaching career began.
Even the decision for Bennett to accept the head coaching offer from Virginia wasn’t easy, and he apparently nearly didn’t take it. As David Teel of the Daily Press reported, he was set to turn down the job and remain with Washington State when his wife, Laurel, suggested he take more time to think on it.
The rest of the story was history, as Bennett has made the Cavaliers a juggernaut in the ACC and a team consistently competing for the ACC title.
Tony Bennett’s Virginia Tenure Starts in 2009-10
Following a three-year stretch as the head coach at Washington State and two NCAA tournament appearances, Bennett’s first season at Virginia came in 2009-10. His time with the Cougars wrapped up with a 69-33 record, and although it took a few years to turn the tides with his new team, the coach got the job done.
After the Cavaliers posted records of 15-16 and 16-15 over his first two years, Bennett’s team went 22-10 in year No. 3 and advanced to the NCAA tournament. They’ve won at least 23 games in each of the seven seasons to follow, making the tournament in six consecutive years.
Over the 10 years Bennett has been with Virginia, no season has been as impressive as the 2018-19 one, which resulted in the team’s run to the national title game.
Tony Bennett’s Accomplishments With Virginia Basketball
The trip to the 2019 NCAA Tournament National Championship takes the cake, without question, but Bennett has done a number of impressive things. They began early during his tenure with the program as well. Just two years into his time with Virginia, the team posted a 22-win season in 2011-12, which was good for the most wins in school history over the span of 17 years.
Two years after that the Cavaliers wrapped up the 2013-14 season by winning both the regular season ACC title and also the conference championship. They finished the year ranked as the No. 3 team in the country, marking the school’s highest spot since being No. 1 during the 1982-83 season.
Bennett has been named the ACC Coach of the Year four times (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019). He’s also won the Henry Iba Award, given to the best college basketball coach as voted on by the United States Basketball Writers Association three times (2007*, 2015, 2018). Finally, Bennett earned the nod as the Naismith College Coach of the Year and AP National Coach of the Year in both 2007* and 2018.
*Note: The 2007 honors all came while with Washington State.
He enters the national title game with a record of 253-89 over his 10 seasons with Virginia, which moves his overall career record to 322-122 in 13 years.