On March 16, men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao stepped down after four seasons at the University of Virginia. A little more than two weeks later, President John T. Casteen III and Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage introduced Tony Bennett as the Cavaliers’ new head coach at an April 1 press conference at John Paul Jones Arena.
Bennett was a relative unknown to many Virginia fans before he was hired, but his coaching staff will include a familiar face—Jason Williford (Col ’95). A captain of the 1995 Virginia team that advanced to the Elite Eight in 1995, Williford was most recently an assistant coach at American University with former UVA player and coach Jeff Jones (Col ’82).
During his tenure at Washington State, Bennett received national acclaim after leading his team to as high as No. 4 in the Associated Press polls. He intends to build on that record at his new home.
“I came here to build a great team, but more importantly, I came here to build a program that lasts, and the way you go about that is you have great integrity and you have great passion,” Bennett said during his introductory press conference.
“Tony Bennett is one of the great young minds in college basketball. … It won’t be too long before he’s challenging the Dukes and North Carolinas of the league.”
—University of Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan
“They will be as well coached as anybody in the United States. … Once he gets his players in there and gets it established, they will be very good for a long time.”
—University of Southern California Head Coach Tim Floyd
“Just the way that he spoke to us, as individuals, as a group, he spoke to us with a lot of respect, and I really like that.”
—Sylven Landesberg (Col ’12), the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year, after Bennett’s first team meeting