Jan. 21, 2010
9:28 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Google “Dick Bennett” and “defense,” and you’ll see how easy it is to learn about the system that Tony Bennett’s father developed.

The search produces links to articles about the elder Bennett’s famed Pack-Line defense, as well as advertisements for an instructional DVD that coaches around the country have purchased.

“I was kind of teasing my dad,” Tony Bennett said Thursday. “I was like, ‘Why did you ever make that tape?’ I told him to keep that thing quiet, but he [spread the word].”

The Pack-Line is designed to limit penetration and shut down the post. The younger Bennett used it at Washington State, where he succeeded his father as head coach, and he’s using it at UVa, where he was hired last spring.

“It’s a defense, when played well, that’s challenging to score against, to break down early,” Bennett said. “You can’t just attack it. You sort of gotta earn your looks.”

The Cavaliers are not unique.

“A lot of people have incorporated concepts of the Pack defense, so I’ve seen it,” Bennett said. “It’s pretty popular, obviously.”

Another team that’s fully committed to the defense is Wake Forest, which happens to be UVa’s next opponent. The ACC rivals meet Saturday afternoon at Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dino Gaudio adopted the Pack-Line after succeeding the late Skip Prosser as the Demon Deacons’ coach, and Gaudio has quizzed both Bennetts on the nuances of the defense. His exchanges with Gaudio, Tony Bennett said with a chuckle, occurred before he took the UVa job.

Washington State’s defenses during Bennett’s tenure ranked among the nation’s stingiest, but it’s not an easy system to master. Defensive breakdowns have hampered the ‘Hoos (3-0, 12-4) during their transition to the Pack-Line, though the team’s performance has been much better in conference play.

Overall, though, Virginia ranks 11th among ACC teams in field-goal-percentage defense and last in 3-point-percentage defense.

“We have a saying that the defense never rests, and it doesn’t,” Bennett said. “You work at it, you work at it, and I think it gets better over time. But you never really arrive and say, ‘Yep, we got it. Our defense is good. We don’t have to address it daily. We don’t have to pay the price and work at it in practice.’

“You have to keep grinding at it, keep working. Sometimes it’ll look poor in a game. Sometimes there will be some stats that are alarming. But you just try to be as consistent at it and work at it, and there’s a discipline to it in that daily work that just hopefully builds a level of soundess and toughness that’s needed. And that’s something that I think our guys have gotten better at.”

Wake (3-2, 13-4) is well ahead of Virginia at that end of the court. The Deacons lead the ACC in 3-point defense and ranks third in field-goal defense.

Bennett watched the TV broadcast of Wake’s rout of North Carolina on Wednesday night. The long, athletic Deacons are “playing [the Pack-Line] very well,” he said. “Dino does a great job with it, and they have a good feel for it.”

Even so, Bennett acknowledged, he’s well-versed in the weaknesses of the Pack-Line, and so he has some ideas about how best to attack Wake.

Jeff White

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