Jim Hobgood, analyst for Virginia men’s basketball on the Virginia Radio Network for 12 years, is a co-host of “Hoos Talking”, an oustanding radio program that airs Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. on Sports Radio 910 in Richmond and live on the web. Hoos Talking is a radio associate of The Sabre and as part of the partnership, Jim Hobgood will periodically write a column called “Hobbo’s Corner” on the site. Read more about Hoos Talking and Hobgood here!
With Saturday’s football loss in South Florida, the Wahoo Nation should definitely welcome the start of the Tony Bennett era on Friday, Nov. 13. In future weeks, we’ll analyze games, render opinions and hopefully have some teachable moments, but in this first column, a few season-opening comments about Coach Bennett himself and a season preview of the team.
Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver deserve congratulations for the selection of Coach Bennett. Like most Hoos, I was surprised by the choice. After meeting Coach and having observed his actions since April 1, I’ve become more and more impressed. During his tenure there will be hundreds of wins and many postseason appearances, for three main reasons: Coach Bennett’s vision, character and integrity.
For someone who had never been to Charlottesville prior to his secretive visit in late March, he has a keen grasp of the University and what the basketball program can be that surpasses anyone in recent memory. He views academics, conference and facilities as strong selling points for his program and our university. His five verbal commitments from student-athletes (a term used far too casually by the NCAA) indicate that he can share his vision successfully. From them one can also tell that Coach is a “character guy” who will in turn attract young men of character to his program. Tony Bennett has convinced me that he is a man with high standards; he will recruit, coach and act in a manner that will always be a credit to his family, the program, the University and the Commonwealth.
Now, let’s look at the team and upcoming season. I’m sure Coach is delighted to be picked 11th (he probably would have liked 12th even more). We will not finish 11th. I think this team will surprise, thanks to the three “E’s” – experience, enthusiasm and encouragement. Last year was a growth experience for this group and the team is largely intact. You must first learn to compete, then you learn how to win. We’re ready for the latter thanks to last year’s experience. Second, Coach Bennett’s arrival has brought a measure of excitement and anticipation to players and fans alike. In both cases, it signals a “new beginning” and the hope that comes from that opportunity. Finally, I think Coach is an encourager. Players definitely need a strong word of direction periodically. At critical times, however, an arm around the shoulder also works. I strongly believe that Coach Bennett recognizes this and will know just how to respond.
Look for Sylven Landesberg and Mike Scott to have another great year. Calvin Baker will work hard to make his last year successful. Jeff Jones is my key guy. I think under Coach Bennett’s leadership, he will achieve the potential and promise he had when he arrived two years ago. Add to that a contribution by first-year player Tristan Spurlock and you’ve got the ingredients for reversing last year’s record and playing somewhere beyond the ACC Tournament in March.
With seven games in November, we’ll have plenty to discuss when we next get together. Go Hoos! – JH