If not for a pair of losses earlier in the month, Tony Bennett would have left the floor Wednesday with more victories than any coach in Virginia men’s basketball history.
Instead, that milestone can be tied Saturday at Georgia Tech, not that Bennett will be paying much attention to his program’s record book.
Terry Holland, the UVa coach from 1974-90, had a 16-year record of 326-173. Bennett is at 325-119 after a 66-46 victory over the University of Albany on Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
”First, Coach Holland is the best,” Bennett said after the game. “His family, his wife Ann [and] his daughters. Just the way he has represented basketball at this program and what he’s built, it’s just tremendous being able to talk about him.”
Holland still lives in Charlottesville, but Alzheimer’s has limited involvement with the program he built.
“How has this gone?” said Bennett, who is in his 14th year at Virginia after three seasons as the head coach at Washington State. “My coaching career? I don’t think I even wanted to coach. I just wanted to play a lot longer than I did. Yeah, I’ve had some tough times, but it’s better than I deserve, to have the players that I’ve had, the coaches I’ve had and the continuity.
“Part of me almost wishes that they didn’t keep track [of the record] and, that way, coach Holland could just keep it. I just want these guys that I coach to be as good as they can and see where it takes them. I don’t want to say it’s insignificant but it’s kind of all icing on the cake.”
Albany, now 5-10, had the lead on several occasions during the opening stages Wednesday night, most notably at 19-15 with under eight minutes left in the first half.
The teams had met once previously, when the Cavaliers defeated the Great Danes 84-57 in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. That UVa team, coached by Dave Leitao, dropped a second-round game to Tennessee 77-74.
Albany, coached by Dwayne Killings, is coming off a 13-18 record in 2021-22, when one of its biggest victories was over ACC foe Boston College 60-50.
“It was a great honor to bring our program here to Virginia,” Killings said Wednesday night. “I love what coach Bennett does, the way he builds his programs, the way he builds teams.
“I’ve known him for a long time. I have a lot of respect for him. For 16 minutes, I thought we executed our gameplan perfectly.”
Then, veteran UVa point guard Kihei Clark had steals on back-to-back possessions that help turned a 24-24 tie to a 31-24 Cavaliers lead at the half.
“I thought that really crushed our spirit,” Killings said. “They’re a really good program for a reason. They did a really good job of taking away Gerald Drumgoole, our leading scorer.”
Killings added that he called Bennett seven or eight years ago in hopes there was an opening on the UVa staff.
“If you look at this tape and look at how they rotate and look at how they close out and look at how disciplined they are, there’s a lot you can learn,” he said.