Tony, Tony, Tony: For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow!

It’s time to Break It Down!

It’s not often I write about a college basketball program other than North Carolina, or a current college basketball coach other than Roy Williams…unless it’s his mentor, Dean Smith. But in less than six months, I find myself drawn to what I believe to be a compelling story about Virginia Cavaliers’ head basketball coach, Tony Bennett.

I’ll make the post a brief one, but note, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Ergo, even though today’s post is short, the point is weighty. Others in similar positions might do well to take note of Coach Bennett’s lead.

Suffice it to say, Tony Bennett (the basketball coach) works in a high profile, high-pressure profession; one for which he is well compensated. He reportedly earned (according to a USA Today data base) $4.15 million this year. Still, as is customary, after leading his team the collegiate NCAA Division I College Basketball National Championship in Minneapolis, Minnesota, The University’s President and Athletic Director offered Bennett a raise. You may recall, I wrote about the Hoo’s winning their first hoops Title, and about the entire Final Four in the April 10th edition of “Break It Down,” (

In what was not such a usual practice, Bennett opted to decline the raise, and instead asked the university to in effect, spread the wealth. In a written statement released by the University, he said:

“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.”

Bennett urged the AD to increase compensation for his coaching staff, and to fund other improvements to the basketball program in lieu of giving him a big raise. He and his wife also pledged $500,000 to a program to support current and former UVA players’ career development. He did accept a one-year extension to his current contract, which now runs for seven years.

Not surprisingly, Jim Ryan, UVA President was ecstatic about his hoops coach’s decision. He added:

“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.

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.”

To be sure, Bennett is an exemplar of leadership. Almost any school would be proud to claim a coach with his accomplishments and character. It is clearly in UVA’s best interest to hold onto him, and it’s equally apparent Mr. Ryan and others at UVA recognize that, and are making every effort to ensure the relationship remains not only firmly intact, but cemented for long term.

There is probably more that could be said, but much of it would border on being redundant. Moreover, in keeping with my commitment to brevity, I herewith conclude…”Tony, Tony, Tony: For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow!”

I’m done; holla back!

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