Tony Bennett enters his fifth year as the men's head basketball coach at the University of Virginia. Bennett came to Charlottesville after spending the previous three seasons as the head coach at Washington State where he was the 2007 National Coach of the Year.
Under Bennett's direction UVa's record has improved each season and the Cavaliers have compiled an overall record of 76-53. In his fourth season in Charlottesville in 2012-13, Bennett guided the Cavaliers to a 23-12 record and appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. The Cavaliers finished fourth in the ACC for the second consecutive season and won a school-record 20 games at John Paul Jones Arena.
In 2011-12, he led Virginia to a 22-10 record and its first NCAA Tournament berth in five seasons. The 2012 U.S. Basketball Writers Association District III Coach of the Year, Bennett guided the Cavaliers to their first winning season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (9-7) since 2006-07 and their most regular season wins (22) since 1982-83.
Virginia was ranked in the Associated Press poll for 11 consecutive weeks in 2011-12, its longest period as a ranked team in a decade. The key to the Cavaliers' success was their defense. The team ranked second nationally in scoring defense (54.2) and fifth in three-point field goal percentage defense (28.9 percent) for the 2011-12 season. The Cavaliers held 11 opponents to fewer than 50 points, the most by an ACC team in the shot clock era.
Other highlights for UVa in 2011-12 included winning seven true road games for the first time since 1986-87, winning four ACC road games for the first time since winning five in 1994-95 and compiling nine regular-season road/neutral wins for the first time since winning 10 in 1990-91.
Bennett's second Virginia team in 2010-11 compiled a 16-15 record (7-9 in ACC regular-season games). It was UVa's first winning season since 2007-08. Virginia finished tied for seventh in the ACC regular-season standings after being picked to finish 11th in the preseason by media representatives attending the conference's Operation Basketball media day. In ACC regular-season games, UVa led the league in three-point percentage (.396), scoring defense (62.2) and defensive rebound percentage (.714).
Bennett won his 100th game as a head coach during the 2010-11 season when the Cavaliers defeated Maryland 74-60 in College Park, Md. He has a career record of 122-74.
Bennett's first Virginia team finished the 2009-10 season with an overall record of 15-16, an improvement of five wins over the previous season (10-18 in 2008-09). The 15 wins included three victories over nationally-ranked opponents. The Cavaliers ranked 13th nationally in fewest turnovers a game (average of 10.7 turnovers per game) and 18th nationally in free throw percentage (74.8 percent, 386-516) in 2009-10. UVa also ranked third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in points allowed per game at 63.6, an improvement of 8.9 points a game from the 2008-09 season.
Bennett was introduced as the head coach of the Virginia men's basketball program on April 1, 2009.
"Tony Bennett comes to the University of Virginia with a plan to build our program,"UVa Athletics Director Craig Littlepage said at Bennett's introductory press conference. "He is an outstanding basketball coach and is a perfect fit for UVa. He has all of the needed coaching and leadership skills along with an understanding of how to succeed in a highly competitive academic and basketball environment. He has demonstrated success in the Pacific-10 Conference. His teams have beaten the elite programs in that conference and he will bring the same type of success and energy to the University of Virginia."
In three seasons at Washington State, Bennett led the Cougars to a 69-33 record, including a 32-22 mark in the Pac-10. Washington State's 69 wins over those three seasons are the most over any three-year period in school history. He led the Cougars to the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments, the only time WSU has made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
"Coach Bennett has a keen understanding of what it takes to be a successful student-athlete as well as a successful collegiate coach. He possesses the personal qualities - thoughtful leadership and commitment - to take over the helm of the University's men's basketball program," said then University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III. "We are confident that he is the right choice."
Bennett said he was honored at being named UVa's men's head basketball coach and noted that the University represented all of the things that are important to him and his family.
"I'm coming from a place in Washington State University that was all about family. It was the people that made the place so special," he said. "I will be forever grateful to WSU President Elson S. Floyd, Athletics Director Jim Sterk, and the young men I had the privilege of coaching while I was there, as well as the WSU fans."
In making the decision to come to the University of Virginia, Bennett said that he was impressed by the University's academic reputation, the elite facilities, the prestige of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the city of Charlottesville.
"As important as all those things are," he added, "It will be about the people and the family atmosphere in the program. When my wife and I visited, we were both very impressed with how genuine Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver (executive associate director of athletics) were - and the passion they have for the success of the men's basketball program. I look forward to working with the young men in this program to build something special in the long term."
In his first season as a head coach in 2006-07, Bennett took a Washington State squad projected to finish last in the Pac-10 prior to the season and led it to 26 wins (26-8 record), matching the school record, and a second-place finish in the conference with a 13-5 mark. That year, the Cougars made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years, defeating Oral Roberts in the first round before suffering a double-overtime loss to Vanderbilt in the second round.
For his work in 2006-07, Bennett became the most decorated Pac-10 coach in a single season. He was named National Coach of the Year by nine organizations, including the Associated Press, The Sporting News and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. In addition, Bennett was the Pac-10 Coach of the Year, the United States Basketball Writers Association District 9 Coach of the Year and the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 14 Coach of the Year that season.
In 2007-08, Bennett's Cougars were ranked in the AP preseason poll (10th) for the first time in school history and were ranked a school-record No. 4 during the season. That squad finished with a 26-9 record, once again tying the school record for wins, and had an 11-7 mark in the Pac-10. Washington State advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, defeating Winthrop and Notre Dame in the first two rounds of the tournament. The Cougars fell to top-seeded North Carolina in the regional semifinal in Charlotte, N.C.
In 2008-09, Bennett led the Cougars to their third consecutive postseason appearance. Washington State posted a 17-16 record and participated in the National Invitation Tournament. The Cougars defeated NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Arizona State (twice), Mississippi State, and UCLA during the season. The road victory at UCLA was just the second for the Cougars at Pauley Pavilion in the last 53 years.
Bennett's teams have not only been successful on the court, but also in the classroom. Virginia's Jerome Meyinsse received the ACC's Skip Prosser Award in 2010 as the conference's top men's basketball student-athlete, and Meyinsse and Will Sherrill were named to the 2010 ACC All-Academic Men's Basketball Team. Sherrill was named to the ACC All-Academic Basketball Team for the second consecutive year in 2011 and Will Regan was also named to the team. Four Washington State players were named to the 2009 Pac-10 All-Academic First Team, while a school-record five players (three first team and two second team) were honored as Pac-10 All-Academic selections the year before. The conference's Scholar Athlete of the Year for men's basketball in 2008 and 2009 were members of the Washington State program.
Before taking over as the head coach at Washington State, Bennett was on the staff of his father, Dick, for three seasons in Pullman, the last two as associate head coach. The previous four years Bennett was at Wisconsin, serving on the staffs of his father, Brad Soderberg and current Badger head coach Bo Ryan. While Bennett was at Wisconsin the Badgers participated in the NCAA Tournament all four years, reaching the 2000 Final Four and the Sweet 16 in 2003. Wisconsin also earned a share of the Big Ten title in 2002 and 2003. Bennett was instrumental in the recruiting of Devin Harris, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, to Wisconsin.
In the summer of 2011, Bennett was selected by USA Basketball to be a court coach for the USA Basketball Men's World University Games National Team training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Bennett played for his father at Wisconsin-Green Bay from 1989-92. He graduated from Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1992 and finished his career as the Mid-Continent Conference's all-time leader in career points (2,285) and assists (601). His 49.7 career 3-point field goal percentage is still an NCAA record. Bennett helped the Phoenix to an 87-34 record during his collegiate career, including one NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances. He was twice named MCC Player of the Year, was the 1992 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner (best senior player under six-feet tall) and was the 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the Year. Bennett was the 35th overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets and played with the team for three seasons.
In August of 2011 Bennett was named one of the Summit League's (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference) Top 30 Distinguished Contributors for the league's first 30 years at the Division I level.
Bennett and his wife, Laurel, have two children - a daughter, Anna, and a son, Eli.