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Tony Bennett: Recent struggles 'part of rebuilding'

There's sometimes a misconception that Tony Bennett did not go through the rebuilding at Washington State, considering the Virginia coach inherited the Cougars just as the program was beginning to emerge in the Pacific-10. However, Bennett was his father's top assistant during the three seasons in which Washington State finished a combined 36-49, including 18-36 in the conference. When Bennett discusses rebuilding jobs, he goes back to what he and his father went through in Pullman, Wash. -- and it's comparable to what Bennett is currently experiencing with the Cavaliers.

"This is part of rebuilding," Bennett said Monday, the day before Virginia extended its season-long losing streak to six games. "We had a real solid start. You're hoping you can shortcut this, and bypass this process. But this is the hard part. The hard part is you have to go through this. Sometimes it gives you a reality check of where we're weak, and where we need to improve. I wish I had a clear answer...here's exactly what you do. But you just have to go back to being as sound, as tough as possible."

In the preseason, Bennett said he needs players he can lose with before he can win with them. He explained that there's a process involved, and the foundation must be set before success can be achieved. Even during Virginia's quick start in the ACC, Bennett was the least convinced. His father, Dick Bennett, watched game DVDs from his Wisconsin home and saw that there was still significant work to be done.

Without becoming a psychoanalyst, it's fair to say that Bennett's demeanor or message has not changed during the Cavaliers' six-game losing streak. It's the same as it was during a winning streak just a month earlier. Bennett preaches "quality" -- it was similarly a buzz word when I spoke to Bennett for the first time in depth in May -- and emphasized that his rebuilding effort will take time.

This might not be popular among fans clamoring for quick results -- and they're within reason, considering the program's struggles in recent history -- but it's been a consistent message from Bennett. Although he does not appear to have doubts, he has pointed to his Washington State experience as guidance.

By Zach Berman  |  February 25, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
 
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