Like every year in our humble blog's history, we've failed to get that exclusive preseason interview we were hoping for with Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett. Luckily, we had an almost-as-good opportunity to ask his Twitter alter-ego, @IfTonyTweeted (aka Phony Bennett) some questions. I am guessing Coach Bennett would have answered the same way:
There's More HOOps Week!
2014 HOOps Week
Streaking The LawnRead more of STL's coverage of 2014 HOOps Week! Tons of player profiles, team previews, prizes and more. Whether it's our charity drive, a Q&A with Phony Bennett, or a discussion on retired jerseys, there's tons to get you ready for the season!
There's More HOOps Week!
Streaking the Lawn: Fans are eagerly anticipating the reveal of a new group of first-years taking the court in orange and blue. What can you share about the class based on what you've seen in practice so far?
Phony Bennett: I'm going to start with Marial Shayok, because I would not be shayokked to see him emerge as our best freshman this year. See what I did there? I've been sitting on that gem for months just waiting to use it. And now that I have, I feel empty inside, and a little disappointed. But when Marial is getting a lot of minutes and everyone's is talking about him as the steal of the class, remember who told you first. It was me. I did.
BJ Stith comes to grounds with a lot of fanfare and pressure. Folks are going to want him to live up to his namesake, BJ from BJ and the Bear. That will be tough to do without a commercial driver's license and a monkey, but if anyone can do it, it will be someone from the legendary Stith family. I hear BJ's dad used to play basketball too, so that's pretty cool.
Jack Salt comes to us from Middle Earth, a wondrous place of beauty and magic. Jack is of the Ent race, which explains why he is 14 feet tall and vaguely tree-like. Do not confuse Ents with Groots, because Groots are from comic books, which everyone knows aren't real. Jack only took up the game of basketball three days after I offered him a scholarship, so his skills are a little raw. But I'm the best teacher this side of the woman that taught Helen Keller to drive, so expect him to be all ACC in a couple of years.
STL: What about the veterans? How have they developed and what do you see in store from them this year?
PB: First of all, Mike Tobey is now 7 feet tall. If you look at our Q&A from two years ago, you will see where I dismissed the "you can't coach height" notion and promised to coach him up to a full 7 feet. Which I have now done. And I just want to make sure I get credit for that. [Ed. Note: You promised 7' 2"!!!]
Evan Nolte made some offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons, but we are trying to move past that. To make sure the same transgressions don't happen again, we have hired Tim Gunn as a fashion consultant. He's gone through Evan's closet and thrown everything that could potentially make the program look bad in a mug shot. So I feel really good that we won't have similar problems in the future.
Justin Anderson was the conference's 6th Man of the Year last year, and all offseason he's been telling me that he's going to repeat that feat. And then I say "But you're going to start this year" and he says "Yeah I know, that's what will make it extra impressive." And I say "That's not how it works" and then he just stares at me and it gets really weird.
London will be heading into the season with some foot problems, but don't they all? Stress reactions and fractures are a rite of passage around here. A very painful and debilitating rite of passage. Some say it's because of our tough practices with hard cuts, screens, hedges, and slides. Others would look at that last sentence and question my use of the Oxford comma. But you know what? Here at UVa, you can have bad feet AND good grammar.
STL: How will this year's team respond to the loss of Akil Mitchell's defense and Joe Harris's shooting?
PB: Can we talk candidly? I'm scared to death that we won't be able to replace Akil's defense. He did so much, and was seemingly everywhere for us, that it's going to be almost impossible for one guy to fill his shoes. But I think an important part of the Humility pillar that we talk about is being willing to learn from others, and so we're going to experiment with something I've seen Mike London do a couple of times during really big moments, and put an extra man on the court.
STL: Once again, you eschewed Midnight Madness in favor of a more informal "meet the team" event as well as the "Ball with the Hoos" event for students. Have you considered other ways to get fans involved?
PB: You know, a lot of schools like to do midnight madness events so that fans can see coaches get dressed up as aging glam rockers and fall off motorcycles, and players can play really low quality scrimmages. And I can see why fans would get excited about that. But I think such spectacles are unworthy of our 5 Pillars, which are of course Humility, Passion, Unity, Servanthood and Thankfulness. Speaking of which, we did try to get fans more involved by letting them suggest and vote on a 6th Pillar, but it turns out that their choice of "Awesomenosity" isn't even a word.
STL: You received a new contract in the offseason in which you received a raise...but insisted on first taking care of your assistants. How important has their support been?
Without making too big of a deal about it, let's just say money isn't that important to me. I still have the same brown Datsun B210 that I did in college. I even had it goldplated and surrounded by some really dramatic uplighting so I could look at it and be reminded me of my roots.
But yes, taking care of the assistants was a priority. Whereas I'm getting close to $2 million per year, the assistants were getting far less. Coach Sanchez, for example, wasn't even getting paid and had to buy tickets just to get into the games. As soon as I found that out I had it corrected, and now he has tickets in section 310. Because it's important to remember where you came from.
Coach McKay asked for courage, and I gave him a medal that said "COURAGE" to help him realize that he had it all along.
Coach Willie simply requested "fat stacks" and I was all "I hear ya dawg."
Then Coach McKay came back and said he wanted fat stacks too but I told him it was too late. And a valuable lesson was learned that day: You can make your own courage, but you can't make your own money. That's a felony.
STL: What are your goals for this season?
PB: I want to be able to bench 250 and leg press the whole stack 20 times.
STL: I meant for the team.
PB: Most of those guys can already do that. We have a great strength coach.
STL: I meant other goals that don't involve weight lifting.
PB: We have those too.
STL: What are your thoughts on the addition of Louisville to the conference?
PB: I'm a big fan of it. Pitino has some pretty embarrassing incidents in his past, and I will draw from them when the time is right. Just not yet.
STL: What is best in life?
PB: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their fans.
STL: That is good! That is good.
Bonus question from Twitter:
PB: I'm just gonna put this out there: All the George Clooney of coaching talk really bothers me. I'm not comfortable with that comparison at all. I think of myself more as a young Robert Redford, debonair with an air of quiet authority.
Anyway, Jack has a strong jawline and BJ has a million dollar smile, and if I continue this line of thought any longer it's gonna get weird. Don't make this weird.
Thanks again to Phony Bennett for taking the time to answer our questions - these are fun! Be sure to give him a follow if you somehow don't already at @IfTonyTweeted!