UVA men’s head basketball coach, Tony Bennett, is on top of the college basketball world right now.
He leads the defending NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers, and they look like they’ve reloaded for another run this season. After a shocking defeat in the first round of the tournament in 2018, becoming the first no.1 seed to ever lose to a no.16 seed, Bennett and his Cavaliers bounced back last season, compiling a 35-3 record that included a victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the NCAA Championship game.
Now, as he gets ready to start a new season, Bennett has been rewarded with a big raise.
But, surprisingly, he’s turned it down.
Not because he wanted more more. No.
He wanted to share the wealth with others.
“I have more than I need,” said Bennett. “I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.”
In a shocking display of generosity and humbleness, the 11-year UVA coach told his bosses, University President Jim Ryan and Athletic Director Carla Williams, to distribute his raise to his staff and improvements that would help the program.
“President Ryan and Carla were very gracious in what they offered to me as a potential contract, but I have a very good contract. I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”
It’s a selfless move that has shocked everyone, yet one which didn’t come as too much of a surprise to those who really know Bennett.
“Tony’s decision—to turn down a well-deserved raise and instead invest in his players and UVA athletics more broadly—tells you everything you need to know about him as a leader and as a human being,” said President Ryan. “Tony is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and this is just the latest example. He and Laurel show us what it means to be great and good, and I hope they will continue to be a part of the UVA family for many years to come.”
“I’m thankful for their consideration of the department, for their gift to the Master Plan, and for their commitment to the young men in our basketball program,” said Williams. “We want to lead the way, nationally, in regards to the student-athlete experience. Career development programming for our men’s basketball players will help set that standard and differentiate our program.
“I know they do not want any praise or recognition, but it is important for me to acknowledge how thankful I am for Tony and Laurel.”
Bennett and his family are committed to UVA and are at peace with where they are in life.
“As the saying goes: Don’t mess with happiness. Certainly there have been other opportunities, but I love the college game, I love what this university stands for, I love how as a staff we’ve been allowed to try to work towards it. It’s a journey. It’s hard. I love being here and continuing to try to build,” Bennett said.
And by sharing that happiness, coach Bennett is bringing even more of it to the world.