Q&A with Tony Bennett
Question: What are the differences for you this season, in your second year at Virginia, from last season, when you were in your first year here?
Bennett: There is more familiarity with pretty much everything. But, with so many new faces in our program, it is almost like it’s a new beginning again this season. Where I notice the difference the most, from last year to this year, is the relationship with our returning players. They have had a year with our staff, with me, and there is a deeper level of understanding and trust.
Question: You just completed a span of six consecutive games away from home. How does that much travel, this early in the season, help a young team come together?
Bennett: Because of the schedule, you are forced to spend a lot of time with your teammates. You are with these guys all the time and are experiencing together a roller coaster of emotions. There was some adversity they faced in those games, some elation in the wins, along with some fun, like our snorkeling trip in Maui. That forces you to know each other better and hopefully care for each other more.
Question: The Radford game started a span of eight consecutive home games. What are the things you are focusing on as you are home for the next month?
Bennett: We faced a lot of adversity on our road trip, and we saw signs of improvement, which is the most important thing for our team at this time. Now there is the challenge of not falling into the mentality that just because we are home that everything is just going to fall into place. We can’t afford to do that. We have some very good teams coming here in the upcoming weeks and we will need to be ready.
Question: You have had to depend on the first-year class a lot this season. Is their ability to contribute right away even more of a key because you have had significant injuries to some of your veteran players?
Bennett: Hopefully that just makes us a little bit deeper when we get everyone back and are completely healthy. Whether some guys were ready or not, they have been put into opportunities and situations that will force them to grow individually as players and force our team to grow. You keep trying to adjust how you play because of the players you have available and that is the mode we are in right now.
Question: At Minnesota, your father, Dick Bennett, had a chance to speak with the team. How important is it for you to have opportunities where the team can learn from his years of coaching experience?
Bennett: We were fortunate to have my father share some of his wisdom. He has been in this situation a few times, building a program. He has been in our shoes. He has had teams that were inexperienced and sometimes overmatched. There is tremendous wisdom there, and I know he wants what is best for this team. He speaks the truth in love, which he did with me many times when I played. He was able to share some good insights with our team and I am appreciative of that.