Spring 2021 Magazine

Virginia coach Tony Bennett thanks the 'Lord and my Savior' after winning school's 1st national championship

One year ago, Virginia wallowed in heartbreak. The Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose to a 16-seed.

On Monday night, Virginia basked in the spotlight after winning its first men’s basketball national title. The Cavaliers completed the ultimate turnaround with a 85-77 overtime win over Texas Tech in the 2019 national championship game.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

De’Andre Hunter hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 68. Virginia then outscored the Red Raiders 17-9 in the extra period, going 12 for 12 on free throws. Hunter, a sophomore guard, led all scorers on the night with 27 points, and junior guard Kyle Guy added 24. Guy, who calls himself a “child of God,” was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

Leading the way for Virginia was head coach Tony Bennett in his 10th year in Charlottesville. He said after the game on CBS that he has a picture of Rocky in his office because all he wanted was a chance at a title fight. “And now we’re the champs.”

Bennett also revealed a song he played for his team earlier in the day. It was “Hills and Valleys” by renowned Christian artist Tauren Wells — fitting for a team that had been in one of the darkest basketball valleys but now is on top of the highest basketball hill.

“It just means that you’re never alone in the hills or the valleys,” Bennett said. “And we faced those from last year to this year. But the credit goes to these young men, and I can’t wait to celebrate with my wife and my kids and my parents. And I do want to thank the Lord and my Savior.”

Bennett has been leading with his faith his whole career. Prior to Virginia’s first game in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Bennett spoke with the media about unconditional acceptance and love. “I know I have that in my faith in Christ. That’s, for me, where I draw my strength from, my peace, my steadiness in the midst of things,” he said.

Bennett also joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast back in October and talked about working through that “historic loss” to end last season, but always knowing where his foundation lies.

“The Lord is more than ample. He’s enough. In Him there is all sufficiency. In Him there is great joy and great rest, regardless of what the world is screaming at you through great success or through failure,” he said.

Bennett and the Cavaliers have experienced both, and right now they’re enjoying great success. With a roster featuring only one senior, Virginia will aim to remain on top of the hill and make another run at a title fight in 2020.

RELATED STORIES:
Virginia coach Tony Bennett follows father’s faith-filled footsteps into Final Four
— Virginia head coach Tony Bennett finds peace and perspective in his faith in Christ
Virginia guard Kyle Guy relying on his faith in the Lord as he leads Cavaliers to Final Four
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says ‘God’s blessed us all year long’ after heartbreaking loss to Virginia
— Tony Bennett leads Virginia back to a top seed in NCAA Tournament after historic loss last season
— NEW PODCAST: Tony Bennett, Virginia Men’s Basketball Coach
— Virginia coach Tony Bennett says his faith in Christ is the ‘greatest truth’ he knows