WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | Sports

Cavaliers Announce Bennett as New Men's Basketball Coach

March 31, 2009

The University of Virginia has released an official announcement regarding Tony Bennett's hiring as Cavalier men's basketball coach. Virginia will hold a 1:00pm news conference Wednesday afternoon, which we will carry live on CBS19, and on our web channel, wcav.tv. The news release is as follows:

Tony Bennett Named Men’s Head Basketball Coach At Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Tony Bennett, the men’s head basketball coach at Washington State University for the last three years, is the new men’s head basketball coach at the University of Virginia, UVa Athletics Director Craig Littlepage announced today.

“Tony Bennett comes to the University of Virginia with a plan to build our program,” Littlepage said. “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 the past 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 University President John T. Casteen III. “We are confident that he is the right choice.”

Bennett said he is 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 we’ll build to grow this 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 United States 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 for six weeks 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.

This past season, 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. Four Cougars 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 each of the last two years has been a member 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 an assistant coach at Wisconsin, serving on the staffs of both his father and current Badger head coach Bo Ryan. While Bennett was at Wisconsin, the Badgers went to the 2000 Final Four, reached the Sweet 16 in 2003, and 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.

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.

The parties have agreed to a memorandum of understanding that will pay Bennett total annual compensation of $1.7 million for five years. He also will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and the memorandum includes an additional incentive bonus of $500,000 that he would receive after five years.

Bennett’s financial agreement is the responsibility of the Department of Athletics. The department is a stand-alone auxiliary that relies on a number of different revenue streams, including ticket and merchandise sales, student fees, ACC television revenues, and philanthropic gifts to support its day-to-day operations. The department does not receive any state funding.

Bennett and his wife, Laurel, have two children - a daughter, Anna, and a son, Eli.


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