Virginia head coach Tony Bennett celebrates with fans after the championship game against Texas Tech in the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. Virginia won 85-77 in overtime. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Proud pop: Dick Bennett beams as son leads Virginia to title

April 09, 2019 - 2:27 am

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Dick Bennett has difficult time watching his son, Tony, coach Virginia. He rarely attends games.

"I'm not a model of decorum or poise," said Dick Bennett, the former longtime high school and college basketball coach. "But I needed to be here."

The Cavaliers didn't make it easy on the elder Bennett, beating Texas Tech 85-77 on Monday night in the first overtime NCAA championship game in 11 years. When it was over Dick and Tony Bennett shared a hug on a court covered in confetti and then posed of a picture with the whole family before his son went to cut down the net.

"Words aren't very accurate," Dick Bennett said. "When your emotions outrun them and that's kind of where I am right now."

Dick Bennett drew the blueprint that Tony Bennett used to turn Virginia into a national champion. He practically invented the so-called pack line defense the Cavaliers use to squeeze the life out of opponents. With that deliberate style and stingy defense, Dick Bennett found a way to close the gap on the more talented and athletic teams. He took Wisconsin to a Final Four in 2000, the Badgers' first in 59 years. That was as far as one of his teams ever got, but Tony Bennett was sure that same game plan could take Virginia even further.

"He's so far past me," Dick Bennett said on his son's coaching. "I feel like I'm back in kindergarten."

Dick Bennett sat behind the bench Monday night, trying to keep it together during the latest Virginia nail-biter of the tournament. While he said he doesn't coach along anymore, Bennett couldn't help but point and signal Cavaliers to get back on defense a few times as Texas Tech responded every time it looked as if Virginia might edge away.

"I'd probably do that when I'm sleeping," Bennett said.

Tony Bennett followed his father as head coach at Washington State in 2006, then moved on to Virginia in 2009. Slowly, fittingly, Bennett built up the program to one that could go head-to-head with Duke and North Carolina without a roster loaded with future lottery picks.

The only thing missing on his resume was a Final Four run, like his dad. Tony and Dick Bennett became the second father-son combination to coach in the Final Four, joining Georgetown's John Thompson and John Thompson III.

In Bennett's case, the son brought home the championship that eluded the father. Dick Bennett did not attend the Final Four game against Auburn on Saturday, another heart-pounding victory for Virginia. Tony Bennett said his father told him Monday afternoon he would show up for this one, but the son still wasn't certain.

"I'm so glad he came to that last game," Tony Bennett said. "Great to be able to share this stuff with your dad and family and his impact's been huge on me."


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