Coaching search profile: Tony Bennett

  • 03/20/2017 2:26 pm in

After nine seasons in Bloomington, Tom Crean is out as Indiana’s head coach and the search for his replacement is underway.

Inside the Hall will profile some of the candidates who are being discussed for the job over the coming days. Our fourth profile takes a closer look at Virginia coach Tony Bennett.

Tony Bennett was reportedly a candidate for the Indiana job when it was open in the spring of 2008, but talks never advanced past the interest stage. That was Bennett’s decision and Indiana moved along, eventually hiring Tom Crean.

Bennett, the head coach at Washington State at the time, took the Virginia job in 2009. He did terrific work at Washington State, going 69-33 over three seasons and winning three NCAA tournament games. In 2007, Bennett was named the Associated Press and Naismith national coach of the year.

At Virginia, Bennett inherited a mess, but it didn’t take long for him to build a winner in Charlottesville. In eight seasons at UVA, Bennett has compiled an 188-83 record with two outright regular season ACC championships.

Overall, he’s 10-7 in the NCAA tournament with his deepest run coming in 2016 to the Elite Eight. Bennett’s teams are built with an emphasis on defense and taking care of the ball.

He’s never consistently had elite talent, but has consistently produced elite results defensively. Virginia has ranked in the top seven nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency in five of his eight seasons. Why is that relevant? No team in the KenPom era has won a national championship with a defense ranked outside of the top 21 nationally.

The one hesitation that gets brought up with Bennett is that some fans may not enjoy watching his style of play. Virginia routinely plays the slowest pace in the country in terms of average possessions per game. Still, it’s a style that produces wins and Bennett came into Indiana and landed Kyle Guy, 2016’s Mr. Basketball. He’s also produced successful NBA players at Virginia in Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson. At Washington State, he recruited Klay Thompson, now an all-star in Golden State.

Bennett played collegiately at Green Bay and played in the NBA for three seasons with Charlotte. The son of former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett, Bennett was an assistant in Madison from 1999 to 2003.

The other notable factor to consider with Bennett is the fact that his sister, Kathi, was the Indiana women’s coach for five seasons before resigning in 2005. There have been suggestions his sister being forced out hurt Indiana’s chances to land Bennett in 2008, but the athletic department and administration has turned over since that situation unfolded.

Final Analysis: In many ways, the system Bennett has carried out at Virginia is Wisconsin on steroids. The Cavaliers win with fundamentals. There isn’t much flash, but the results are hard to argue.

This past season was Virginia’s worst offensively over the last four as the Cavaliers finished 51st nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. The three seasons prior to that, Virginia was in the top 27 in the country. Whether or not Bennett would be interested in the Indiana job remains to be seen, but he’s certainly proven himself to be a candidate worthy of consideration.

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  • marcusgresham

    Shades of John Cheney. I used to think the same thing about him (then again, he did once threaten to kill John Calipari so he wasn’t all bad.)

  • marcusgresham

    I agree. 39 is a decent half. Hell, 65 has almost been an IU half at times.

  • Ole Man

    LOL! If you mention Knight too many times it upsets a certain segment of our fan base!
    Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. I really do.

  • That should be an extremely strong NO.

  • RMK

    Doesn’t matter. Repeat what he did there his last 10 years and you would have the best decade IU has had in 30 years, and it wouldn’t be close. Add in the superior talent that is in our state over what Ryan had locked up in Wisconsin and the potential to get over that hump in there.

  • Outoftheloop


  • Hardwood83

    Ugh. Please, no! Disagree he had “a lot of success” at Iowa St. He is Tom Crean the sequel. Fast pace, poor defense, roster turn-over.

    I’ll give almost anyone a chance, but if it’s Alford or Hoiberg I’ll be very sad.

  • Larry Brown

    outside of Stevens and Donovan, who checks both boxes? Just wondering if you’ve identified a few. Alford hasn’t.

  • hoosierbred

    Who do you have in mind? I never followed ISU like I did IU. But always thought Hoiberg’s teams competed well in its conference and made the tournament multiple times. If it comes down to some mid major coach, what do you think about Buckley?

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    If it isn’t one of the guys you mentioned, I am a fan of finding the next great, young coach. What has really hurt IU, since 2000 is lack of continuity. The two best programs in the B1G, since 2000 have been MSU and Wisky. Lots of program continuity there, so I’d love to NOT have to find another coach for a very long time…hence the desire for a younger coach.

    I really have a man (coach) crush on Mike White from Florida. He’s already winning at a Power conference school, he has a good sports family pedigree, his teams play D, but he doesn’t play stall ball like Bennett.

    I also like Archie. I could say much of the same about Archie as White, but he hasn’t had a high profile job yet. I’m a fan of Collins too. What he’s done at NW is nothing short of amazing. I’d also prefer to give Fife a shot over Alford, if we are looking for the “Indiana guy.” I’m just not in love with Alford’s resume. Hiring Fife would be a big leap of faith, but I think he’s going to be a dandy once given the chance.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    Oh…and I forgot Holtmann too. Not quite as young, but young enough, and he’s succeeding in the Big East.

  • Hardwood83

    My list, more or less in order: Donovan, Stevens, Bennett, Marshall. There are other interesting options (White, Holtman) but IMO IU needs a proven winner, not an up and comer. I think IU is ready to resume it’s role as an elite B-ball power, all that is needed is the right coach. There is nothing in the history of Alford, Hoiberg, Fife or a number of others that indicate they will win at a high level. Let someone else find the next great hidden gem coach.

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    It’s a good question. I guess there aren’t any who have consistently had March success. That’s why I tend to lean towards a younger coach whom I believe COULD have both. Guys like White, Collins and Archie. I think given the resources of IU, all three of those guys could become the next “IT” coach.