Pecora: "Tale Of Redemption" For Tony Bennett, Virginia

From punchline to national champion, Tony Bennett's last 12 months were a coaching masterpiece

Taz and the Moose
April 09, 2019 - 9:27 am
Tony Bennett Virginia Texas Tech National Championship

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One year after suffering perhaps the most humbling loss in NCAA Tournament history, Virginia won its first national title in program history Monday, beating Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime.

“Obviously a tale of redemption for Virginia after last year’s first-round loss,” Tom Pecora said on Taz & The Moose. “I’m sure there’s coaches all over the country meeting with their teams in the next day or so and they’re going to talk to them about how you respond to what happens to you in your life. How do you respond to failure? That dictates greatness.”

It dictated greatness for Virginia, which won two of its last four tournament games in overtime. The other two wins were decided by a combined five points, including a one-point escape against Auburn in the Final Four.

“For them to come back and not lay down and just fall apart after last year – granted, they didn’t have De’Andre Hunter in that game – but to lose to a 16-seed and then to be able to be on this mission and win so many close games moving forward, I think it was really impressive,” Pecora said. “Not only their wins, but the way they found ways to win. Their will to win was off-the-charts.”

Hunter finished with 27 points and nine rebounds Monday, while Kyle Guy finished with 24 points and three rebounds. Both hit four three-pointers.

As for Tony Bennett, the NCAA Tournament heartbreak is over.

“Tony Bennett is one of the premier coaches in America,” Pecora said. “When he got hired at Virginia, there were a lot of people who questioned the hire. Midwest guy, but he had success out at Washington State, and they didn’t know if that could translate back to the ACC and the East Coast. He’s done an incredible job there.”

Virginia has won 30+ games in four of the last six seasons. Bennett has done it with his own unique style – which is more Steve Kerr than Tom Izzo.

"He’s not a fire-and-brimstone guy,” Pecora said. “He’ll get up and into them a little bit, but he recruits a profile of kid that’s intelligent, understands where he’s coming from and how he motivates. Obviously for him to be able to do this over the course of a year and then to keep them locked in and hungry (was so impressive). It’s a 12-month-a-year gig now. So to keep them that motivated this long and to continue to get better, they grew as a team. The players have just grown as a team and become great, great players.”

Click below to listen to Pecora’s interview in its entirety.