five questions with
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tony Bennett
By Kristin Thurman
Three-time National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett’s success has continued during his 11 years in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers have gone 277-96 under the veteran mentor, including a school-record 35 wins and the program’s first national championship in 2019.
Like everybody else in 2020, Bennett and his squad will have to navigate new challenges related to the global coronavirus pandemic, but he’s confident they will be able to continue their winning ways.
Cavalier Corner: What has practice been like since the team came back this summer and what has been the biggest adjustment in dealing with COVID-19?
Bennett: “It has been great to be back with the team during this unprecedented time. Our staff is certainly thankful for each and every opportunity to work with our student-athletes.
“Our biggest adjustment has been handling the day-to-day uncertainty during this time. Another challenge has been not being able to spend more time off the court as a group or individually, but the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and managers is and will always be our main priority.”
Cavalier Corner: This year’s schedule will be different from any other year; how are you preparing the team for all of the challenges that lie ahead?
Bennett: “It may sound cliché, but we really are taking a day-to-day approach to this season. I feel we’ve done a good job of that so far and our student-athletes have adjusted as well.”
Cavalier Corner: What can you tell us about newcomers Reese Beekman, Carson McCorkle, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Malachi Poindexter and transfer Trey Murphy III?
Bennett: “It’s early, but I like what I see. Everyone is working hard and learning our system. Our upperclassmen are showing them the way. The newcomers have shown flashes and have suffered growing pains, but I’m encouraged.”
Cavalier Corner: Besides preparing for the 2020-21 season, what did you do to stay busy this summer during the pandemic?
Bennett: “I spent a lot of time with my family, and also played some tennis and golf.”
Cavalier Corner: Eight former Cavaliers (Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Scott, Justin Anderson, De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Devon Hall and Kyle Guy) played in the NBA last season. How proud are you to watch the success of those players and other Cavaliers playing professionally all over the world?
Bennett: “I am proud of our pro guys and all of my former players that came to Virginia and earned their degrees. I’ve said it before, but a student-athlete can have it all at the University of Virginia.
“I also know how hard it is to play professionally, so it’s awesome to see them achieve their goal of playing on the biggest stage in basketball.”