March 18, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We're now ready to move forward with the Virginia press conference. At this time we will have Head Coach Tony Bennett. He'll skip his opening statement, and go straight to questions.
Q. Tony, after the Wake game you brought up your 30-footer against Butler. Can you talk about your memories of Butler over the years?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, tremendous respect. Coach Collier, Barry Collier is the A.D. now. I think the year was '96 or '97 where he came and visited my father at the house and they just exchanged basketball ideas, and they talked about actually the pillars of the program that my dad had established when he was at Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wisconsin, the five biblical pillars of humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness. Kind of adopted those pillars and they've used them. Coach Stevens, Brad Stevens is one of the best. They've used those and that program is a model of so many programs, what they've accomplished in postseason and getting to play.
That was the first game I ever played as a player on, I think -- yeah, it was on national TV on ESPN we played Butler, and were for fortunate enough to beat them on a last-second three. Getting to play in in Hinkle Fieldhouse was special. I obviously was watching the movie "Hoosiers", all those kinds of things. Terrific.
And you look at what this team has done this year and how well they played. The best compliment I can give them, you watch Butler and I said it yesterday, they don't beat themselves. Well-coached, of course. Experienced team. It seems that's all we've been playing the last few games.
Again, have the utmost respect for what their program stands for, how they've done it and I know the character of that program and a lot of things we share. I think some things that are common.
Q. With a segue off that, too, it seems like quite the coincidence that your dad profoundly influenced both your coaching career and the Butler program. I mean, when Butler plays Virginia, are the two teams almost, Virginia playing Virginia, Butler playing Butler? It seems like at least in foundational things, you know, the programs are the same.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah. I think certainly there's some similarities in those areas, but obviously some differences. Like their guards are bigger than ours. We haven't gone against so many guards. They have huge guards. That's just the way they play and how effective they are.
But, no, I think we try to be a team that plays real sound and real tough basketball. And, you know, again, they'll probably run more sets than us. We probably run a little more of our motion at times, but we try to make the game as, you know, as simple as it can be in terms of get good shots offensively, and make the other team work to get contested shots. And the way we go about it is similar in some ways defensively and there's little differences.
Absolutely, I think we try to recruit the same kind of character guys, and I know they're making a difference. I don't know Coach real well, but I kind of like what I see, as far as watching his team play, how he coaches and respect what he's done in the situation he's been in, but I know they're about character, too, so --
Q. Just one follow-up: How did you guy snare Kyle Guy? That guy is a pretty good player.
TONY BENNETT: We're fortunate to have Kyle. I think we got on him early. I think some of the success that we had, you know, him watching us in the ACC really helped and we're excited certainly to have Kyle. And I know we fought Butler for him and some other really good programs in Indiana. So thankful that we have Kyle coming.
Q. Tony, you reference their backcourt size, specifically Roosevelt Jones. What type of challenges does he present? Yesterday you compared Chievous to Blossomgame. Is there anyone you played this season to whom you could compare Jones?
TONY BENNETT: He's really like a power point guard. He's kind of unique. I think he might lead them in rebounding. Both of their perimeter guys do. Gets on the glass, gets in the lane and makes good decisions. Knows who he is. As a coach, we talk about, do you know who you are as a team? As player he really does.
We played against some good guards but he's kind of unique. He's one of their keys. They have so many. You have to do a good job on him but he's got a lot of the experience as well. You tell me, I'm trying to go through the guys in the ACC. I can't think of any, so.
Q. Coach, Coach Holtmann said he didn't get much sleep last night preparing for you guys. How much time did you spend on this quick turnaround? Obvious did pre-scout. What is it like with the quick turnaround? How much sleep did you get especially yesterday with what you were dealing with?
TONY BENNETT: No. You watch a lot of film. Like you said, you do the pre-scout stuff. You watch film and that's why you also have to rely on your principles as a program, you know, the things you do that you've worked on, that you've trained over the course of the season. You're not going all of a sudden do something completely different. So, you have to rely on those, but prepare well with your staff and then prepare well in your practice. You have an hour, hour and a half out there. You'll have a shootaround tomorrow to be as ready as you can. Playing in the conference tournament, we had to do that three days in a row in the ACC. It's a challenge but you work for thing like that.
But, no, watching them, absolutely. You have to deal with the size, how they run their offense. You're always thinking of that. As coaches you sit in those rooms. If your players could hear your conversations as coaches going, what are we going do here? They might say geez, I don't know. You're always trying to figure stuff out.
When it comes to getting ready to prepare for it. You do what you do best and you have a couple approaches and you got to execute.
Q. Anthony Gill told us a story that a coach, when he was younger, accused him of having no motor and that kind of motivated him. Did you know that story and how would you describe Anthony's motor at this point?
TONY BENNETT: No, I didn't know that story. I'm glad it wasn't me. I didn't say that. But, when he got here, I think the way he's played on the offensive glass. I said, "You're like a warrior on the offensive glass. You go to the glass, you play hard." And then we talk about, "Let's find areas to use that aggressiveness and apply it to your defense." I think he's worked to become more aggressive defensively and be continuous.
But hard-playing, tough-minded but yet has a -- you guys have been around him. I think he has the right perspective on things and enjoys it. That's key for us. His ability I think in a game like this, it's those X-factor things, guys that can get the loose balls, get on the glass, get offensive rebounds, make some of those plays and he's done that for us. He was really good yesterday. He took advantage of some of the mismatches that were there and did a terrific job.
Q. You shared some of your interesting or humorous anecdotes from your dad over the years. Did you talk to him after yesterday's game about your experience, and also about playing Butler?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah. I just talked to him for a brief minute. My mom was grabbing the phone from him saying, I want to talk to me.
But actually I've been his assistant and I've seen him jump up quick and have to put his hand on the floor and almost pass out. I've seen that happen before. We were kind of chuckling about that. We didn't talk too much about the game. He was just, "I'm doing fine."
TONY BENNETT: No, we didn't talk too much about that. I know he probably has respect. I'll probably try to give him a call tonight or visit with him tomorrow. Like I said, he hasn't watched many of the games, you know that. But he's always gives me a good piece of advice and wisdom for sure.
Q. Tony, players never forget their last second-game winners. Can you take us that through that shot at Butler and was it the shot of your life?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah. I can't remember what the score was, but I think the score was tied and I just was coming down and I remember looking at my dad. I think we had a time-out. Thad Matta, every time I see him, he always recounts the story. My dad looked at me, and was like, go ahead, it's on you.
I think I surprised the guy guarding me. I shot it from 25, 26 feet. I didn't think he thought I was going to shoot it, and I made it with a couple seconds left. Again it was exciting. Again, it was our first game on ESPN. I remember looking at my dad and like, you want me to call time-out? He was, Go ahead son, let it go. It was a good memory for sure.
Shot of my life, I don't know. I'm trying think. I have had a few game-winners but that one probably stands out for sure, in college.
Q. Tony, early in the season, it was a priority to replace Darion Atkins' defensive role. What strides have you made where it's clear that you have? Because clearly, your defense is better now than it was two months ago.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah. I think we had two guys in Justin Anderson and Darion Atkins who were erasers. They could cover a mistake, block a shot and chase a guy in transition. The way Darion can blow up ball screens. I think Isaiah Wilkins has given us a great lift. I think the guys have gotten better positionally and collectively. Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte, I've been using as a foursome. We probably don't have as much as that ability, but we've tried to, as I said, tighten it up a little bit. At times I think we've improved, but you have to keep working.
Again, a team like Butler will test you to see how good you really are. Darion can almost be in two places at once. You're talking about him specifically, and you need that type of anticipation against teams that run multiple actions, multiple screens, move the ball and can score inside and out.
Q. Tony, I know it would have been disappointing for you if Evan and Mike had kind of fizzled out at the end of their careers. What does it mean for you as a coach to see them both playing well on this stage at what could be the final games of their careers?
TONY BENNETT: Right. Real important. They've given so much to the program. We talk about Malcolm and Anthony a lot but Evan and Mike have both had significant impacts and they are the reason why our program is where it is. I can't tell you how happy I was. We all talked about it to see Mike have that kind of game in his last game at John Paul Jones Arena. He just stayed faithful. Evans sometimes wasn't playing, but we're about the team and about me being a servant. Those pillars being about unity and servanthood, say, what can I do to help the team? Of course it's frustrating when you're not individually getting as a last-year player, your senior year, the things you want, but they stayed true. Their time has come around and you can see if in their eyes. That's why as coaches when you see that, when they have individual success, that brings me as much joy as anything.
So to see those guys do that -- Evan, two years ago against Coastal Carolina, without him we probably would have gotten beat. He really saved us in that first-round game or second-round game. But he's had moments this year for sure and they've stayed patient. And they're really -- Malcolm Brogdon and all of these guys, it's not instant gratification. They stayed patient, they stayed patient and they're enjoying it and I think they're going to get a lot out of it.
Q. Tony, it's fairly unusual to have a California guy playing at Virginia. How did you discover London Perrantes and what has he meant to the program?
TONY BENNETT: I coached at Washington State when I was in the Pac-10 at the time and we had to recruit all over at Washington State, internationally. So having coached at Wisconsin as an assistant, been all over we knew we just had to find the best players.
I really thought Virginia could draw nationally or internationally because of the ACC, maybe not where our program was at the time but the ACC would draw and then what the academic experience could do for them.
And London just -- sometimes you just watch guys and you hear coaches say they have the "it" factor. I referred to him as a neck-up player. He has that. He has composure, understanding of the game, a feel for it. That I think is real person. We brought a young man named Taylor Rochestie into our program, a terrific guard. He really had it and that program went to another level. I think our program was -- when we really had a guy like London who kind of tied it all together and become more aggressive this year, that helped us take the next step with the talented guys in place.
Q. There was a Washington State kicker involved in giving you a tip on London?
TONY BENNETT: Yes: Nico (Grasu). He told us, "Hey, I watched your teams." There's a scouting service, there's a couple people -- a lot of people will take credit for it but the punter, the kicker there, said, "I watched you guys played a lot over my years," and he said, "This guy fits what you guys do." And one of my best friends was an assistant at Washington State at the time, and we were both fighting for him because we knew the kind of player that we thought could really help our programs.
Q. We saw Mario have another big game last night. He's kind of done that a couple times over the season. But did you guys know he was going to be the big player off the bench for you at the beginning of the season?
TONY BENNETT: I think Marial, in his first year he showed flashes and this year up and down. I thought he had a nice -- he and Devin both showed great flashes and had a nice ACC Conference tournament. Marial, he's hungry to defend. He gives you size and defensively. That has improved for us. He's got the ability to get in the paint, making some plays and knocking down some threes when they're there.
He's in his second year, so he's gotten better and better as the season has progressed and I think that's really good for his future and for us. But with his size and length, you need -- playing against Butler and teams you play you need guys of size on the perimeter and that ability.
He really plays hard. He and Isaiah, they are wired hard. They really want to defend. You can see that. That helps us and he gives you a different dimension offensively the way he's getting into the lane and knocking down shots to balance it off has helped us.
Q. Tony, the third straight year in the round of 32, how much different are things for you guys at a program and how you go about things at this stage now as opposed to a couple years ago? And how much of that do you think kind of reflects the growth of the program in that span?
TONY BENNETT: I think the experience is important but I don't know if you change how you go about it, you realize that -- I think you realize you're more aware that you've got to play at a high level. There's nothing guaranteed. Especially in college basketball. This year you're going to have to show up and play well. I think our guys have a belief if we play well, we'll have a chance to advance. They truly understand if we don't, we won't. I think that last year against Michigan State. They outplayed us, we didn't advance.
The year before, we played well against Memphis and we did advance and I think just that knowledge of knowing that, and I think our guys have done a lot in their four-year career, especially this group of seniors. I said before, that won't be taken away but the piece to try to advance as far as they can in the NCAA Tournament will be a great way for them to finish their careers and that's exciting. You know there's always a chance that it doesn't happen. I think that there's a hunger for that, and I believe they're focused for it and I know that would be a great way for them to go out.
Q. Tony, you mentioned Evan. Since the Louisville game, at JPJ, it seemed every shot he takes, it looks like it's going in. He seems to have rediscovered a confidence about him. What triggered it? Was it just getting the ankle better?
TONY BENNETT: He's gotten probably a little more consistent time and sometimes you make a couple, and then the rim looks a little bigger and that helps us. That stretches our defense, gives us a different dimension. That's been significant.
In the Louisville game he started hitting the first couple of threes. He's done that at different times in his career but it's nice to see that and know he's a threat, I think the other team has to account for that.
Q. Tony, talking to a couple of players they said, they get this sense types in games usually the second half when they've worn down the opponent. What it is about the Virginia system that does that to teams?
TONY BENNETT: I think every team fights for that. I think you're playing hard to get your shots and working to get your shots. It's a battle of attrition, who is going to impose whose will on one another. There's points at times when you sense, okay, we are at the point. You could feel it. As a coach that's one of the better feelings you can get. The better competitions you play, the harder it is.
I think it's trained through practice, through experience as players and knowing that it's been validated with these guys. Hey, if we work hard defensively and not give up easy stuff and work to get good looks and have a tough mindset and try not to lose or beat ourselves, as I mentioned, that can have a wearing effect on the opponent and that's how we've chosen to play. And that's been our best way to succeed.
It's not an easy way. It's a hard way. But it's the best way for us and that's my job is to figure out what is the best way for us to be successful.
THE MODERATOR: I'm afraid that's all of the time we have, Coach. Thank you very much. And good luck tomorrow.
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