Last spring, the Virginia men’s basketball team suffered one of the most shocking upsets in sports—becoming the first top-seeded team in the history of NCAA’s “March Madness” tournament to lose to a lowest-ranked 16 seed. This April, in the same tournament, Virginia won its first title.
That the Cavaliers ascended from humiliation to celebration is a testament to Bennett’s coaching skills. Inheriting a program that attracts relatively few stars, Bennett built a contender by stressing passing and disciplined, stifling defense. And after last year’s defeat, Bennett gave his players leeway to talk openly about the frustration of losing, the better to motivate themselves and one another. Discussing last year’s loss after this year’s triumph, he told reporters: “It bought us a ticket here.”