Virginia Basketball Notes: March 26 ‘Coach’s Corner’ With Tony Bennett

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Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett’s final “Coach’s Corner” of the 2017/2018 season took place on Monday, March 26. Notes from his appearance with Dave Koehn are below, but you can watch the entire program on Facebook by clicking here.

The Days After The Loss To UMBC

The morning after, Coach Bennett gave his players something else to think about besides the obvious disappointment.

“It’s gonna sting. You’re going to feel down. You’re going to feel discouraged. That’s human nature. But the one thing you better not do is feel shame or shameful for that. That’s unacceptable,” Bennett said. “One thing I told them is, ‘You have an unbelievable opportunity or a captive audience, whether it’s your parents, your brothers or sisters, your friends, people around you, and if they see you, not fake, handling adversity the right way, you have no idea the influence that you’ll have.’”

“If you can be strong and handle this the right way, you have no idea how that will impact the people closest to you, so understand that,” Bennett said.

– This is a topic that has come up on our message boards. Apparently, Coach Bennett and his staff discussed it as well. The question is this … Would you trade the season Virginia had (ACC regular season and tournament titles, a historic loss in the NCAA Tournament) with a team that finished middle of the pack in their conference but made the Sweet 16. Syracuse was brought up by Dave Koehn as an example.

“We had a split staff,” Bennett said. “But most of them said, you know what, as time goes by you’re going to hang two banners in JPJ, and that stuff can’t be taken away. But absolutely the NCAA Tournament is huge. It’s a blast. I was part of my father’s Final Four run. I’ve seen that. It’s just so exciting to see it. I know most, or a lot of people, it’s only about that.”

Does Virginia’s system work in the postseason?

“The game is going more to small ball,” Bennett said. “The NBA is ahead of it now and you’re seeing it and the floor is being opened up, but the formula we have has been so successful. [The system] has worked, even postseason-wise, in some regards, and of course there have been some tough losses. I just think you look at it all.”

Walking the line of how much to change while not abandoning a successful system.

“You stick to [the system], with adjustments,” Bennett said.

Health playing a role in Virginia’s NCAA struggles?

“When we were our healthiest and we had a really good team, we went to the Elite Eight and were knocking on the doorstep of the Final Four,” Bennett said. “To get to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight is no small thing. I know maybe for some programs, eh, maybe no big deal. That’s not Virginia’s program, yet. Obviously, we’re trying to win a national championship, get to a Final Four, but you’ve gotta be good. You’ve got to be healthy. We perhaps don’t have the depth of some of the other teams, but I think one of our strengths this year is our chemistry was so good because there wasn’t a lot of confusion on roles. When we’ve been healthy, I think we’ve been pretty set. We just have not been as healthy as we could have been when we’ve had our opportunities in postseason.”

Learning from last season and applying it to the next year.

“You have to examine all parts and say, ‘What do you learn from that?’,” Bennett said. “I’m so thankful for the success we had all year, but we’re going to grow from the struggle of that NCAA Tournament game. I will as a coach continue to look and learn. I hope it’ll motivate even more the guys in the offseason to develop. Those things have their place.”

Is the ACC Tournament taxing?

“It’s demanding, but it’s worth it,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if I’d trade it.”

Replacing Ron Sanchez

Walking off the court following Virginia’s loss to UMBC, Tony Bennett recalls looking at associate head coach Ron Sanchez and saying, “I hope I just didn’t cost you a job.”

He didn’t. Just a few days later, Sanchez was introduced as the new head coach at UNC Charlotte. Coach Bennett addressed how he plans to go about filling the sizable void left by the departure of Sanchez, who has been on Bennett’s staff ever since Bennett became a head coach 12 years ago.

Former Boston University and UNC Charlotte assistant Orlando Vandross, who has been Virginia’s Director of Recruiting/Player Development the past three seasons, will take Sanchez’ spot on the road recruiting for the Cavaliers in the coming weeks. No permanent hiring decisions have been made.

“Orlando Vandross, who is terrific, who was actually at UNC Charlotte before and has done a really good job as our Director of Recruiting, he’ll go into that position,” Bennett said. “You have two weekends and some time now when you can be out recruiting for the March/April period and see how that goes. Before we do anything permanently, we’ll take our time and see what makes the most sense and not rush the decision. Trying to replace someone like Ron, who has a big role, you have to think about that and just look at a lot of things. You have to examine all areas, see what adjustments can be made, and see what makes sense for our program to try to improve it, to try to add strengths where maybe you need to add ‘em.”

There are two recruiting Dead Periods on the horizon – March 29 through April 5 and April 9 through April 12. Except for those, a Recruiting Period is in place from now until April 18 and then there are two Evaluation Periods that take place in April – April 20-22 and April 27-29.

Additions to the 2018 Roster

Dave Koehn asked Bennett about what areas he may look to bolster next season through graduate transfers. Bennett began answering the question by saying he is open to all options in recruiting this spring.

“Graduate transfers, there’s coaching changes, there’s normal transfers,” Bennett said.

Before going further, Virginia’s coach diverted into discussing a potential rule change that would allow one-time transfer exceptions. I didn’t get the sense that Bennett loved this possible change, which essentially could allow a player to transfer Division 1 schools without having to sit out a year. He believes the rule could “change the landscape of college basketball.”

We’ll keep you updated on any transfer rule changes. Returning to the topic at hand, though, which is what position or positions Virginia may look to add to in the 2018 season …

“There’s a couple things. I think on the perimeter, if we could add one,” Bennett said. “All things are out there. If you don’t add someone and stay the way you are, that could be okay too.”

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