Tony Bennett to step down as Virginia basketball coach

Bennett says decision in best interest of sport

Virginia coach Tony Bennett shockingly announced he will immediately step down as head of the Virginia men’s basketball team. At a press conference Tuesday night, Bennett explained his decision as one made with the best interest of the sport in mind.

“I’ve thought long and hard about this over the past week,” Bennett said. “After reflecting on the matter and speaking with my father — pack-line innovator Dick Bennett — I reached the conclusion that a system built around suffocating defense, efficient offense and the five pillars of humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness is ruining the game that I love.”

The success Bennett brought to Virginia is undeniable. The Cavaliers went 136-64 in his six seasons, won two ACC regular season titles, one ACC tournament crown, made three NCAA Tournament appearances and reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2014.

Yet this success came at a steep price, as national writers, like Myron Medcalf, criticized the program for being too boring — Virginia was the third-slowest team this season.

Despite support from notable personalities like ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and Grantland’s Mark Titus, Bennett now believes his system is hurting the NCAA’s bottom line.

“While basketball purists can enjoy our playing style, I now see that Virginia basketball may turn off casual fans from the sport,” Bennett said. “These casual fans make the Tournament as successful as it is, and I could never deny the NCAA the funds it needs to protect amateurism.”

Although Bennett’s players and fans of the team may require time to process this jarring news, Athletic Director Craig Littlepage is already focusing on filling the coaching void. He announced plans to canvas the Aquatic and Fitness Center’s basketball courts to find the next Cavalier coach.

“We believe that the qualities that exemplify exciting basketball — non-existent defense, isolation offense, poor decision making and suspect shot selection — are best exhibited at the AFC,” Littlepage said. “We will actively search all three courts for candidates that enjoy forcing layups in traffic and ignoring open teammates.”

Bennett is uncertain of his future and has not yet ruled out returning to basketball — albeit with a radically altered philosophy.

“Right now, I need to take a step back and think long and hard on my future,” Bennett said. “Basketball has always been a large part of my life, and it always will be.”

Concerned that his lifetime of emphasizing fundamentals will not easily be forgotten, Bennett is considering starting an AAU team for his son, Eli, to learn the ropes of the modern, star-driven and technique-lacking game.

“I was lucky enough to play underneath my father and learn his offensive and defensive systems,” Bennett said. “I would consider it an honor to teach Eli the proper way to hoist 35 shots a night while playing no defense in order to garner attention from major Division I programs.”

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