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Tony Bennett: Virginia Cavaliers Benefit From Coach’s Altruism

Tony Bennett is one of the best college basketball coaches in the country. It’s why the Virginia Cavaliers were willing to both give him an extension and award his success on the court with a raise.

He only took the former, opting for the latter deal to be used in other areas of need instead, including facility upgrades and assistant coach raises.

“[My wife] Laurel and I are in a great spot, and in the past I’ve had increases in my contract,” Bennett said in the news release. “We just feel a great peace about where we’re at, all that’s taken place, and how we feel about this athletic department and this community and this school. I love being at UVA. ”

“… I have more than enough, and if there are ways that this can help out the athletic department, the other programs and coaches, by not tying up so much [in men’s basketball], that’s my desire.”

Bennett’s deal now runs through the 2025-26 season. For the sake of clarity, he made $4.15 million last season. So, when Bennett claims he has more than enough, it’s not exactly hyperbole; though this appearance of altruism won’t be lost on many.

Soon as the deal was announced on Monday, media and fans took to the mean streets of social media to figure out the “meaning” of Bennett’s decision to give a pay-raise a figurative shoulder shrug emoji.

Many claimed this was his way of turning a cold shoulder to the idea of amateurism, being a have in the land of the have-nots, sending a message to the NCAA he’ll only profit off the back of unpaid labor to a certain – I guess – over $4 million degree. Others simply pointed to a well-known characteristic Bennett has, which is often discussed in college basketball circles; his ability to see beyond the hardwood.

The theory of Tony Bennett refuting a raise in the name of conviction is fun, but there’s little evidence to support it at the moment other than hoping for it to be true. As for the altruistic viewpoints Bennett has, and often acts upon, there’s legitimate information to back it up.

Not only did Bennett ask Virginia to use his proposed raise to be used for assistants and facilities, but the head coach and his wife also pledged $500,000 to a career program at the university.

“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,” Virginia president Jim Ryan said. “Tony is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, and this is just the latest example.”

Naturally, the university president adores the idea of an employee who helps to bring in millions of dollars refusing a bump in pay. That’s not to call Ryan a liar; although it’s certainly worth noting his school – not the players – directly benefit the most from Bennett’s decision and pledge. Upgrading facilities will certainly be nice for players. However, the human species has yet to see a member of our kind capable of depositing a dumbbell set in their checking account.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Virginia athletic director Carla Williams.

“I’m thankful for their consideration of the department, for their gift to the Master Plan, and for their commitment to the young men in our basketball program,” she said.

“We want to lead the way, nationally, in regards to the student-athlete experience. Career development programming for our men’s basketball players will help set that standard and differentiate our program. “I know they do not want any praise or recognition, but it is important for me to acknowledge how thankful I am for Tony and Laurel.”

This goes beyond simple math for the Cavs, though. If one would like to read between the lines, this could suggest Tony Bennett is with the program for the longest of long hauls. With his name forever rumored to be up for whatever blue-blood program job ends up open each season, this gesture could put some minds at ease.

Then again, if the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase taught my generation’s youth anything, it’s that everyone has a price.

For Tony Bennett, his has yet to be reached. Or, possibly, he values balance and overall happiness over strictly financial health.

As it is with everything college basketball related, time will tell. Until then, this is the rare story of a person turning down a raise in the name of something other than himself. Regardless of who the money benefits the most, it’s an endearing move by Bennett.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared on Forbes, but has been republished under the original author’s name at ClutchPoints thanks to the publisher-contributor agreement.

Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

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