UVA's New Hope: "Hey Tony! We Like The Things You Do!"
While I have no idea whether or not he fancies Frosted Flakes, I do know Tony Bennett has a few things in common with our old friend Tony the Tiger, besides the fact that they share a name.
Tony the Tiger, through commercials and songs, has been a great motivator for many children (and I'm sure families) to give in once more at their consumer-driven habits and to buy an over-priced—yet incredibly tasty, I must admit—cereal.
Tony Bennett, through mastermind coaching, was a great motivator at Washington State University for three seasons.
In WSU's 2005-06 season, they finished dead-last in the Pac-10 with a 4-14 record, 11-17 overall. Dick Bennett, father of Tony, retired after that season, leaving the reigns to his son. In his first season as head coach, Tony led the Cougars (close enough to Tigers) to a second-place finish in the Pac-10 with a 13-5 record, 26-8 overall.
During that season, Washington State was ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1983. They were picked to finish last in the conference, but ended up earning a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
After this season, Bennett was named National Coach of the Year by nine organizations.
The very next season, Bennett took WSU to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in the school's history, where UNC beat the Cougars handily.
While Bennett's last season with the Cougars wasn't ideal, barely finishing with winning record, he still heads into UVA with a little momentum. He now has a reputation as a coach who can "turn it around," which is what the Cavaliers need badly.
UVA finished 4-12 in the ACC and 10-18 overall. They won only one game away from home the entire year.
They do, however, return their top six scorers and top five rebounders. They will have four seniors on the roster to provide leadership.
So with a team that nearly stays the same and only grows a year older, what can make the difference?
Bennett will bring a new fire to the sideline and garner respect from his players. He will push them on the basketball court and encourage them to succeed in the classroom. His resume proves he is capable.
Can Tony Bennett have Virginia looking at the Cavaliers in the next few years saying, "They're GRRRREAT!"
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