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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE OPERATION BASKETBALL

October 29, 2014

Tony Bennett

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Q.  When you look at this team, I talked with Malcolm a little bit about the resolve of the team and response to resiliency, you lost a couple guys, but it seems like you still have that veteran leadership that knows how to win maybe when people have counted you out and just go into that atmosphere that you've created.
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, I think that's our formula for success at a place like Virginia to get a group of guys, to grow them up, turn them into upperclassmen and rely on that experience because there's no substitute for the games under their belt, the tournament play, the experience that they have, and then you rely on that.  We're not like a lot of other programs where we have a lot of one‑and‑done guys, but you rely on guys who understand your system, who are battle‑tested, and I think that's going to be a key for us this year heading into it.
There's a couple of those guys.  We don't have a close for Joe Harris or a clone for Akil Mitchell, so we'll be different in some ways, but there will be some constants that will remain, and I think that will give us a chance to be as successful as we can.

Q.  Your team was one of the surprise teams last year, and now putting the nation on notice, how do you feel your team will handle the level of success coming into this season?
TONY BENNETT:  You know, it remains to be seen.  I think all you can do is really embrace and accept the challenge of the moment, and then you'll deal appropriately with the aftermath.  That's really all you can do.  Expectations‑‑ I think we make a mistake if we try to compare ourselves to last year and say, last year at this time we were at this point.  Forget all that.  I told our guys, come together.  I said, as good as you can be this year, they'll never take away what happened last year.  And perhaps that might be better than last year and you might go further.  Perhaps you won't be as good and you won't go as far.  It doesn't matter.  You get as good as you can be.  Challenge each other.
We know how we have to play.  We know we're not a knockout‑punch team.  We don't have these huge runs.  We're as consistent and physical and sound on both ends of the floor, and when you do that you have a chance.  That's what I want them focusing on.  I've quoted Oregon football, if you've ever heard that "win the day", that's their theme, and that really is.  Good programs, great coaches back here, they'll tell you, you just get in line with the process.  You stay true to that.  You fall in love with it, and all the end results take care of themselves.  You don't worry too much about it.  Have aspirations, have goals, you have to.  But that's the separator.  The other stuff, that can be a distraction if you get too caught up with compare yourself or what you're there to.
We've got challenges in front of us and wonderful opportunities, but experience will be key.

Q.  The ACC is the premier basketball conference in the nation, if not one of the, but in March you guys were the only team that made it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  The league as a whole, do you think that the league has something to prove?
TONY BENNETT:  Well, I think a chance to represent yourself all the time, if you look at the history, we've got some talking points when we come in, but it's obvious, there's six national championships in the last 14 years, and that's taking into account certainly Syracuse and Louisville.  But it's been successful.
But I think right or wrong, teams now are judged, coaches, in large part teams are judged, conferences are judged by how many, how deep you go in the NCAA Tournament.  Certainly we want to make that, and with the depth of the conference, with the talent in it, I think we are in a spot where if we can do that, it will show that the ACC is elite.
I know a lot of the coaches said this is similar to what the Big East had when they got multiple, multiple teams in.  You've still got to prove it.  It's what's before us.  But I think there's a great opportunity for that and we want to keep going, but there's so much parity in college basketball.  I played at a mid‑major in college.  You can't be so naïve to think that you're invincible.  I know our team is beatable, and our guys have to understand, whoever we play.  When our guys understand that, that makes us better.
I think just because we're in the ACC, just because you're in a power conference, when you step in to play, when you play in the NCAA Tournament, if you're fortunate enough to get there, you've got to produce and play.  The separation is smaller and smaller now.  If we can get multiple teams further in, that will certainly enhance.  That's what it's about.  You want as many teams as you can get for a league like this, because you're going to beat yourself up, and you need that, so I think that will certainly help.

Q.  When you look at your time at Virginia, what have you learned the most about yourself as a coach?  And then on the other side of it, how do you see yourself as a teacher?  How do you view yourself?
TONY BENNETT:  As a coach, I know I've got more questions than answers.  I think I've learned as a younger coach, I remember I was kind of‑‑ you heard that saying here, jack‑of‑all‑trades, master of none.  I remember I took over for my father, I'm like, okay, this is good, I've got my dad's stuff, we're going to press, we're going to run some sets, we're going to have a zone.  I'm going to do all these things.  I'm going to do more stuff and we're going to be a little more exciting.  I realize, first of all, there's not enough time in practice to get all of that done.  Then I'm like, we're not very good at anything, we're just kind of blah in the middle.
And I think as I've matured as a coach, you kind of strip away all the stuff that doesn't matter, especially when you come into a league like this and you're building it, you say what's going to give us a chance?  And let's be as good as we can, and I'm all simplified as I've matured as a coach and just said, let's do a few things as well as we can with extreme execution, because that's what it comes down to.  You cannot trick people now, not with all the great coaches in the league, with the Synergy, all the video stuff.
I think I've learned to not overcomplicate it, and then I describe myself as a teacher.  I think that's what a coach is.  He's a teacher.  Your job is to inspire, it's to correct, it's to motivate, it's to hold guys accountable.  The main thing I think is to push guys out of their comfort zone because it's not natural for a team to do as well as we need them to do, to play as hard defensively or be as unselfish as perhaps we think we need to be to be excellent.
You've got to challenge guys and push them out of their comfort zone, but then you've got to come back and you've got to encourage them.  So it's a whole lot of stuff, and when you screw up, you apologize and then you pick it up the next day.
I don't know if that describes me as a coach, but it's just, I've had one of the greatest coaches, in my opinion, modeled before me in my father, and I've gotten to coach for a couple years under Bo Ryan.  I observe people that take programs and they somehow get a maximum out of their players, and I try to really be attentive to that.

Q.  This appears to be the deepest, maybe the most talented team top to bottom coming off the last few years of steadily improving the quality of the team and then the big success.  How do you plan to balance play time and develop chemistry at the same time?
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, I think depth is good if there's foul trouble or injuries, but when guys are healthy, it can sometimes be a challenge.  I think some of it will reveal itself as we compete and get into games, and every coach, maybe you have to adjust.  Last year predominantly I played about an eight‑man rotation.  I think you can play comfortably five guys on the perimeter for three spots, and probably four for the two forwards or front‑court players, so that's obviously nine.  Again, if there's injuries or fouls, so be it.
But you just get the nine best guys and they play, and that's what‑‑ everybody wants a big role, but that's where you find out.  Do you have a team that it's bigger than themselves?  Are they really willing to want to be a part of that, or is it going to be your own little agenda?  And those are hard things.  They really are.  It's the hardest thing in coaching because you recruit these guys and you want to see them do well, but you have to say, now is not your time.  Will you be patient?  Will you wait?  And some guys choose to wait and it's really rewarding, and some guys say, that's not for me, and that's become more of the norm in college basketball.
We'll see.  I'm going to play as a coach the guys that I think can help us win, and it might vary, but it's about a nine‑man rotation.

Q.  London Perrantes has seemed to gain more and more confidence this last season.  What do you look for him to improve confidence‑wise and execution‑wise?
TONY BENNETT:  Yeah, London hasn't practiced yet this year.  He's had a foot injury, so it's been challenging for us and we've been wobbly at times.  I think of all of our guys, we have a lot of upperclassmen, and I think they have to improve in little ways.  You don't have these big jumps going into your junior and senior year, but London may be able to take perhaps the biggest jump but I don't want him to lose who he is as a player.  His greatest strength is his feel for the game, his composure.  He lets it come and he knows what needs to be done.  But there are some areas where maybe he could be more assertive, and he needs to kind of explore that, because I think he could make up or pick up some slack where we need some areas to be picked up.
I think I want him to certainly lead, be more comfortable and assertive without losing that beautiful feel that he has, because that's what sets it apart for‑‑ any coach knows, when you have your point guard with that kind of feel, it can make a big difference for you.

Q.  How long was he out?
TONY BENNETT:  I hope he's going to be practicing real soon, but he hasn't practiced yet.  He had a foot injury, and it looks like he's been doing more and more, and we're hopeful in the next couple days he'll be out there.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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