Before the regular season, the STL team really wanted to interview our favorite coach, defensive master Tony Bennett. However, it was FAR easier to go through his alter-ego on Twitter, Phony Bennett. (@IfTonyTweeted). So we did just that.
Streaking the Lawn: What do you think the additions of Pitt and Syracuse will do for the conference?
Tony Bennett: More than the teams, I'm excited for the coaching talent coming to the conference.
With Jim Boeheim, we have a legendary coach joining the league. He's a hall of famer who's been to three national championship games and won one. He's also memorized every one of Andy Griffith's soliloquies from Matlock. Ask him to recite one. It's a hoot.
Jamie Dixon doesn't have the same pedigree yet, but big things are headed his way. I predict that within ten years he will finally have replicated Mel Kiper Jr.'s hairdo. He's got a real nice start, and I think he has the wherewithal to see it through. And that takes dedication, and pomade. But mostly pomade.
STL: How have you and the team dealt with the heightened expectations from media and from fans?
TB: Look, all we know about this team so far is that we have potential. But potential is meaningless if you don't use it. Imagine that someone gives you the most powerful battery in the world. It's filled with near limitless potential, but what matters is what we do with it. So we can take that battery and use it to power a flashlight that lights the world. Or we can toss it in the junk drawer where it eventually leaks and makes a big mess and I have to clean it out along with the rubber bands that it leaked on and the TV warranty card I never filled out and why is there a straightened paper clip in here we really need to clean this drawer out. I wonder if this key goes to anything. I better keep it just in case.
So let's light the world up.
STL: We're excited to get our first look at first-years London Perrantes and Devon Hall - how have they fit in at practice so far?
TB: Both of them are great, but coming from two different coasts, they are incredibly different. For example, what London calls chow mein on the west coast, Devon would call lo mein on the east coast. What London calls a freeway, Devon calls an interstate. What London calls a chip, Devon calls a french fry. So they're pretty different, but they have one thing in common that bridges their cultural divide, and in fact brings all UVa athletes together: They love the Flaming Wok.
STL: After his heroic performance against Duke, Joe Harris wasn't quite himself down the stretch. How are you working to prevent a repeat this spring?
TB: I looked back at the tape from last year, and it turns out Joe was averaging 47 minutes per game. The cameras didn't always pick up on it, but during timeouts Joe would be running up and down the court making baskets and taking imaginary charges. Of course none of that counted in the box score, but it made him really tired. So now we're going to make sure Joe is only running between the whistles. Also, we're hella deep.
STL: Your alter ego, @iftonytweeted, has gathered quite a following on Twitter. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
TB: I'm a little baffled by it, really. I recently broke the 2,000 follower mark, which is huge. That puts me in the same twitter league as a morning radio DJ in a medium-sized Midwestern town, or any fake account ever created for a squirrel on the field at a baseball game. Heady company for sure. But I haven't let it change me, mainly because I can't figure out how to monetize it.
STL: Which matchup are you most looking forward to this season?
TB: Duke versus Syracuse should be a good one. I hope I'm free that night.
STL: Do you have a message to excited Wahoo fans about what they can expect from the team this season?
TB: A lot of people, myself included, think we're going to be good this year. In fact, I've heard that the NCAA Tournament selection committee is already working on deciding which terribly under-seeded mid-major to pair us against in the first round. I think we stand a good chance of playing on Saturday in the ACC tourney for the first time since 1995. Maybe even on Sunday(which we haven't done since 1994). But before we get to the postseason, we have to take care of business in the regular season, and that's where the fans come in.
The numbers show that JPJ is one of the toughest places to play in the ACC. We need that advantage all season, not just in the big conference matchups. So come to every game. One day you'll no longer be a student and you won't have that freedom. Real life will get in the way, and you'll miss those days. You'll regret ever missing a game. You'll wish you were a student again. You'll long to go back and be among the cheering masses. But you won't be able to. So you'll decide to support the team the best way you know how: by creating a fake twitter account for a rising coach.
Actually, scratch that last part. That would be silly.