Bling Is Not Tony’s Thing

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Jay Huff, Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite show off their National Championship rings at the celebration at John Paul Jones Arena last month (Photo: UVA Athletics).

Tony Bennett was graciously fielding questions from media at the ACC’s annual Operation Basketball last week in Charlotte.

Sitting there in a Virginia blue coaching shirt adorned by orange and white crossed sabres, Bennett was at his best, from technical questions about his philosophy to serious-natured queries to frivolous stuff. There was one thing missing.

The ring.

Not just any ring, mind you, but the National Championship Ring that he and most everyone in his UVA program were awarded a few weeks ago when the school raised its first-ever banner for claiming the natty.

Couldn’t help but ask Bennett, where was his ring? Does he ever wear it?

“Oh, all the time,” he laughed with a tongue-in-cheek manner. “I sleep in it, go to church with it.”

In reality, he’s only worn it twice. The first time was the night of celebration for the title. The second was the next day when the school asked him and his players and staff to wear them when the team was honored at UVA’s football game.

“Otherwise, it’s in a box,” Bennett said of his bling.

“I don’t think that’s a ring — and I mean no disrespect to other people who wear [championship] rings around — that you would wear a lot,” Bennett continued. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as [comedian Jerry] Seinfield once said.”

About the only time the Virginia coach would wear the ring would be if someone from the team gets married or if there is some other fashion of bonding event that brings them all together. The only other time Bennett would consider bringing it out of the box would be if a recruit or some special visitor would come to his office at John Paul Jones Arena.

“Some coaches may wear it for recruiting,” he said, something he might consider at some point.

“If you’ve seen the thing, I really don’t know how you can wear it,” Bennett commented. “Jack Salt designed it. It fits Jack in that it’s bold, and actually a cool color.”

Salt, of course, was the 6-foot-10, 250-pounds of concrete center who set bone-jarring screens, played solid defense and rebounded for the Cavaliers as perhaps the most underrated member of the championship team.

It is a giant-sized ring with a flashy orange V-Sabres showcased on the flashy surface of the piece (see accompanying video of Jay Huff showing off his ring).

Bennett was right, it’s a big, heavy piece of bling, something more suitable for display than wearing. However, it is quite an eye-catching chunk of jewelry, and definitely a conversation piece.

Mamadi Diakite said recently that his ring needs a companion, and that’s his goal this season, to add yet another ring to his finger. Another box for Bennett’s office.

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