University of Virginia men's basketball coach Tony Bennett has left his heart in Charlottesville, and he doesn’t want it to be anywhere else.
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Bennett led the Cavaliers to the men’s basketball championship this past spring, culminating a tremendous season for the program. He was due for a new contract and what likely was going to be a big raise. Instead, Bennett has said he would rather the money go to helping the team.
Bennett turned down a raise, and one that surely would have likely made him one of the highest-paid college basketball coaches in the nation. Bennett is estimated to be the fourth-highest paid college basketball coach with a salary of about $4.15 million, according to USA Today.
Before Bennett, the Cavaliers were an also-ran in the Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC.
Ahead of his arrival prior to the 2009-10 season, Virginia had just two NCAA Tournament appearances since the 1997-98 season.
But Bennett has turned Virginia into a powerhouse. He has made the postseason with Virginia in seven of the last eight seasons. The national championship last year was the first in program history.
He did extend his contract for another season while declining an offer for a new contract and a pay raise. The head coach has asked that the funds that would have gone towards his pay raise be used to pay his coaching staff
"Tony's decision — to turn down a well-deserved raise and instead invest in his players and UVA athletics more broadly — tells you everything you need to know about him as a leader and as a human being," Jim Ryan, the University of Virginia president, said in a prepared statement. "Tony is one of the most selfless people I've ever met, and this is just the latest example."
The timing of Bennett’s decision to turn down more money comes at a good time to create some buzz. The program is playing host to three of their committed recruits for the 2020 class, a group that includes two four-star players. The recruiting class is already ranked second in the nation according to 247Sports.
A couple of priority recruits will also be in town over the weekend from the 2021 class, making Bennett’s decision to re-invest personally into the program is a move that might resonate with the high school blue-chip talent.
In June 2014, after a trip to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and a season where they finished 30-7, Bennett signed a seven-year contract through the 2020-21 season. That contract increased Bennett's base pay to $1.924 million and it included $1.4 million in longevity bonuses over the life of the contract.