For whatever faults Virginia Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett might have as a basketball coach (last year his team became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed, and his employed brand of defense-first basketball can be borderline unwatchable at times), the same cannot be said about his character.
Bennett, from all indications, is a genuine Christian who isn’t afraid to live out his faith on and off the basketball court, and that was never clearer than in the immediate aftermath of winning his first NCAA championship Monday night.
With the euphoria of the Cavaliers’ 85-77 OT victory over Texas Tech still likely coursing through his veins, Bennett took the time on national television to frame the importance of his faith.
First, the 49-year-old coach described a movie poster in his office that helped inspire his team.
“I don’t know if all these guys will remember this, but when they come into my office I got a poster of Rocky on the steps, and I told them, ‘I just want a chance at a title fight one day, that’s all we want,'” Bennett told CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz. “These guys came to fight in this title and now we’re the champs. I’m so thankful because this is a great story.”
Through the hills and the valleys, Tony Bennett and @UVAMensHoops went through a lot to reach this moment.
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) April 9, 2019
That wasn’t the only inspirational message for the Cavaliers. Bennett said he shared a powerful worship song with his players.
“I played a song for them today called ‘Hills and Valleys’ by Tauren Wells,” the coach said. “And it just means that you’re never alone in the hills and the valleys, and we faced those from last year to this year.”
The “valley” that Bennett was referring to was obviously Virginia’s historic upset loss to the UMBC Retrievers in last year’s NCAA tournament.
He went on to pass all of the accolades to his players, saying, “The credit goes to these young men, and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents.”
But Bennett’s most powerful line came at the end of the postgame interview, when he brought up his faith and thanked the Lord.
“I do want to thank the Lord and my Savior,” he said.
As ESPN notes, Virginia is already favored to win the 2020 national championship.
Rest assured, it seems that Tony Bennett will be ready to make another run.
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