The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) is announcing
that University of Virginia Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tony Bennett will be honored with the 2020 John Lotz “Barnabas” Award.
The award presentation was set to occur this past weekend at the National Association of Basketball Coaches Convention in Atlanta, but the event, along with the NCAA tournament, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, local FCA will honor Bennett at a later time.
“Throughout his coaching career, Tony Bennett has exemplified humble servant leadership both on and off the court, and all of us at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are honored to recognize him,” said Shane Williamson, FCA President and CEO. “During this uniquely challenging basketball season, this outstanding leader has guided his players in matters much more eternal than the game of basketball. Tony has led himself, his family and his teams through the most difficult of defeats and the pinnacle of a national championship with amazing grace and consistency that can only come from the Holy Spirit leading his life.”
Bennett’s nominator shared that the coach “puts God first and maintains a Christ-like culture,” while pointing to Bennett’s often-referenced “Five Pillars: Why They Work and What We Can Learn:” Humility, Passion, Unity, Servanthood and Thankfulness. According to a profile by Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Bennett’s faith has served as the foundation for the Wisconsin native’s life since high school, when he was first introduced to Jesus at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp in Colorado.
Bennett, the three-time National Coach of the Year, has spent 11 years as the Dean and Markel Families Men’s Head Basketball Coach at the University of Virginia. Bennett moved to Charlottesville after spending the previous three seasons as the head coach at Washington State, where he was the 2007 National Coach of the Year.
Virginia has amassed a 277-96 (.743) record in 11 seasons under Bennett’s direction. In 2019-20, Bennett guided the Cavaliers to a 23-7 overall record and 15-5 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. UVA earned the No. 2 seed for the ACC Tournament before its cancellation. Bennett was named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association District 3 Coach of the Year as Virginia led the nation in scoring defense for the sixth time.
The Cavaliers won their first NCAA national championship in 2019 after posting a school-record 35 wins and earning a share of their ninth ACC regular-season title. Bennett earned ACC Coach of the Year honors for the fourth time as UVA earned its fourth No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament in its school-record sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Bennett also recorded his 300th career win vs. Marshall as the Cavaliers amassed their most points (100) during his tenure. UVA has won 29 or more games in five of the past six seasons and 23 or more games in a school-best seven straight seasons under Bennett’s direction.
In 2017-18, Bennett guided UVA to a 31-3 record and its first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll since 1982. The Cavaliers captured their eighth ACC regular-season title and third ACC Tournament championship, along with an ACC-record 17 league wins and ACC-record 9-0 mark on the road. Bennett became the sixth coach in ACC history to win at least three outright ACC regular-season titles and has led UVA to outright ACC regular-season and tournament championships in the same season twice in 2014 and 2018. Bennett was named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Henry Iba National Coach of the Year, earning the award for the third time to rank second all-time behind legendary coach and longtime FCA friend John Wooden, who captured the award six times.
Bennett was honored as the ACC Coach of the Year by both the media and his peers in 2014 and 2015, as the Cavaliers became the first ACC school to win 16 conference games in consecutive years. In 2014-15, Bennett was honored as the USBWA National Coach of the Year. Bennett became the 15th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 200 career-win mark in fewer than nine seasons on Feb. 22, 2015.
A hallmark of Bennett’s teams has been defense, as his squads have ranked in the top five nationally in scoring defense in 11 of his 14 seasons as a head coach. UVA has led the nation in scoring defense six times under Bennett.
Virginia has reached the postseason in each of the past eight seasons, eight Virginia players have been selected in the NBA Draft during Bennett’s 11-year tenure, and Bennett’s teams have not only been successful on the court, but also in the classroom and community.
Before taking over as the head coach at Washington State, Bennett was on the staff of his father, Dick, for three seasons in Pullman, the last two as associate head coach. The previous four years, Bennett served on the staffs of his father, Brad Soderberg and Bo Ryan at Wisconsin. During Bennett’s time, the Badgers participated in the NCAA Tournament all four years, reaching the 2000 Final Four and the Sweet 16 in 2003. Wisconsin also earned a share of the Big Ten title in 2002 and 2003.
Bennett also served as an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning USA at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. In the summer of 2011, Bennett was a court coach for the USA Basketball Men’s World University Games National Team training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Bennett played for his father at Green Bay from 1989-92. He graduated from Green Bay in 1992 and finished his career as the Mid-Continent Conference’s all-time leader in career points (2,285) and assists (601). His 49.7 career three-point field goal percentage is still an NCAA record. Bennett helped the Phoenix to an 87-34 record during his collegiate career, including one NCAA Tournament and two NIT appearances. He was twice named MCC Player of the Year, was the 1992 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner and was the 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the Year. Bennett was the 35th overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets and played with the team for three seasons.
The John Lotz “Barnabas” Award is presented annually to honor a basketball coach who best exhibits a commitment to Christ, integrity and encouragement to others, and lives a balanced life. Bennett is the 18th recipient of the award, named for former North Carolina assistant and Florida head coach John Lotz.
Since its launch by FCA in 2003, the John Lotz “Barnabas” Award has honored the following:
- 2003: Homer Drew, Valparaiso
- 2004: John Wooden, UCLA
- 2005: Dale Clayton, Carson-Newman
- 2006: Steve Alford, Iowa
- 2007: Dale Layer, Colorado State
- 2008: Willis Wilson, Rice
- 2009: Ritchie McKay, Virginia
- 2010: Gary Waters, Cleveland State
- 2011: Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M
- 2012: Don Meyer, Northern State
- 2013: Tom Crean, Indiana
- 2014: Bob Hoffman, Mercer
- 2015: Jayson Gee, Longwood University
- 2016: Ed Schilling, UCLA
- 2017: Gregg Nibert, Presbyterian College
- 2018: Hubert Davis, North Carolina
- 2019: Scott Drew, Baylor