Tony Bennett knew exactly how to break the news of season cancellation to his Cavaliers

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo by Jon Golden

Very little has been heard from the Virginia basketball program since the abrupt ending of the college season. After the ACC cancelled the remaining three days of the ACC Tournament and the NCAA cancelled March Madness, hoops fans were left in shock.

We heard stories from coaches all around the country about reactions from their teams when news was released about the end of the season. Most every locker room was emotional. Some players were “bawling their eyes out,” one coach reported.

What about Virginia?

The Cavaliers were one of the nation’s hottest teams, having won their last eight games in a row and 11 of their last 12, knocking off Louisville, Duke, and Florida State during that streak.

UVA was practicing at nearby UNC-Greensboro when ACC commissioner John Swofford announced the remainder of the tournament had been cancelled.

Dr. David Diduch of UVA Orthopedics, one of the doctors from that organization that takes care of UVA athletes, was with the team when the sad news broke. While the Wahoos were obviously disappointed, Coach Tony Bennett, who has become somewhat of a master psychologist over the years, knew exactly how to handle the situation.

“I will say that every day I get more respect for the job Tony does,” Diduch said. “He completely turned that [situation] around.

“[Bennett] found a way to bring the guys together, congratulate them for what they accomplished, especially the second half of the year and on the season that they had, and to celebrate the relationships.”

After the emotional part of the final practice, the UVA coach came up with a series of fun things to do in order to keep the players’ minds off of the bad news.

Dr. David Diduch of UVA Orthopedics

“Tony came up with different games, challenges, some little ball-handling skills, asking the players, ‘Can you do this?’” Diduch said as he marveled at what he witnessed. “It was just genius. He finished it all with a game of Knock Out, the kids game.”

In Knock Out (UVA’s players backed up to the top of the key), a player has to get his own rebound before the player behind him makes a shot. The entire team — coaches, managers and players — was all playing the game together.

“They made it light,” Diduch said, in terms of the mood. “Tony wanted them to realize what a good thing they have and not dwell on what they were giving up.”

The game went on for quite a while as the players enjoyed their last practice of the season together.

“Guess who the last two players were in Knock Out?” Diduch asked.

I took a couple of stabs and didn’t get any of the two correct.

Turned out that the final two survivors of the game were Tomas Woldetensae and Sam Hauser (see related story on Hauser on this site from the weekend). Hauser won.

“Hauser can really shoot the ball,” Diduch said. “They had to keep backing up the line because they were all shooting so well. I think next year, we are going to be scary good.”

McKoy Staying Put

UVA’s Justin McKoy tries to find a way around Marek Dolezaj of Syracuse (Photo by John Markon).

There had been some speculation that freshman Justin McKoy, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Cary, N.C., might consider transferring after the season, but McKoy put those rumors to rest this weekend.

“Not a big fan of this, but felt the need to say it. To all the Wahoos wondering if I’ll transfer … I’m not going anywhere. I know I didn’t play a lot this second half of the season but we had two really good senior forwards this year. I learned and improved … A LOT. #Hoos”

That was McCoy’s message on Twitter.


  1. Pat Coley says:

    We are blessed to have Tony Bennett as our coach.

  2. Robert S Patterson says:

    Coach Bennett is Best Coach in college basketball today. Quote from Pitt Head Coach, Jeff Capel. Probably. Future Duke Head Coach. VA is ” blessed” to have Coach Bennett. Knows X’s & O’s of the game; but, more importantly, leads the players by his hard work & determination. Spills over to the Players. + Has “CLASS”; like not fussing at Officials over calls against VA. Officials respect Him for this. An EXAMPLE, for all college coaches to follow. I am PROUD that Coach Bennett is my Alumni Coach!
    Major Robert S Patterson, USMC

  3. Coleman Holland says:

    Without question, Tony is the best “all around” coach in college basketball. His coaching ability, his genuine concern for his players overall development, and his faith make him a very special person. We HOO fans are very fortunate to have him in Charlottesville. I hope he stays for the rest of his coaching career!!

  4. Joe Gocella, DPT, ATC ‘95 says:

    Coach Bennett is the ultimate competitor and an awesome coach. We are blessed and proud of what he has given these athletes and The University. Yes it is a disappointment that the Men’s team has to wait to defend our National Championship, but in light of these circumstances, it is better to err on the side of caution and safety for all. May God bless us all to persevere through and come out in the end stronger, humble and united.

  5. Debra says:

    Will they pick backup weré they left off ncca tour it broke my heart I coúndnt watch no bàsketball I Cards fans I líke virgin to

  6. Drbràperry says:

    Will open Ncca in a couple monthto get it back on tv i miss ball on Saturday and Sunday week day please bring these back these young men’s work to hàrd leave thém out

  7. Drbràperry says:

    Q open Ncca in a couple monthto get it back on tv i miss ball on Saturday and Sunday week day please bring these back these young men’s work to hàrd leave thém out

  8. Richard Hartsook says:

    I’m a 72 year old honorably discharged Vietnam Veteran and a native of Norfolk. Have been a fan of UVA sports for many years. Last year’s basketball championship was a nailbiting delight!. Along with the baseball win in the CWS the high point for me. Thanks Tony Bennett for a wonderful gift.😎

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