Behind Tony Bennett's first technical foul
Virginia trailed by one point with 38.6 seconds remaining in Saturday's loss to Maryland when a blocking foul was called against the Cavaliers. On the previous possession, the Terrapins were called for a charge on a similar-looking play. Virginia Coach Tony Bennett was livid. The mild-mannered coach took his jacket off and threw it on the floor.
At this point, I witnessed something I had not seen in a year of watching Bennett coach -- and something that hasn't happened in Bennett's four years as a head coach. He lost his composure, and official Jamie Luckie whistled Bennett for a technical foul.
"Heck of a time to get the first technical of my career, that's for sure," Bennett said.
Bennett did not think Luckie was looking. It's not uncommon for coaches to throw their jackets in frustration, although Bennett did so directly because of the call. One could also wonder whether the shock to the officials had something to do with it, too. On the other sideline, Maryland Coach Gary Williams remains more demonstrative throughout the game than Bennett. Seeing Bennett throw a jacket is almost like Williams or Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg doing something much greater, if viewed relative to their typical behavior.
The officials did not provide the media explanation other than citing Rule 10, Section 5, Article 2 of the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules.
"I saw the ref wasn't looking and I was so frustrated, I took my jacket off and threw it down," Bennett said. "It was a mistake to take my jacket off and throw it down like that, and I shouldn't. But in the heat of the battle...there was certainly a lot of activity a couple plays before, a lot of emotions. And it's just the heat of the battle."
Despite what has been suggested elsewhere, this did not specifically cost Virginia a victory. The Cavaliers were trailing by one point and Maryland was going to the line for two free throws. Virginia would have needed to score, which did come easier in the second half of Saturday but has been difficult throughout the season -- especially when Sylven Landesberg is not on the court.
However, Maryland Sean Mosley would have had more pressure on him at the free throw line with a one-point lead than with a three-point lead, which was the situation after Greivis Vasquez hit both free throws resulting from the technical foul.
"I really feel, because those kids battled hard," Bennett said. "I wish we would have had a chance. That's unfortunate. It's a tough one to swallow, because there's a lot of emotion on both benches. I feel really bad about it; I really do."
After the game, Bennett approached Luckie and the two exchanged words. Asked what was discussed, Bennett said: "I wanted some clarification on the technical. I guess when you take your jacket off and throw it, he must have caught the tail end of that."
Outside Virginia's locker room after the game, the Cavaliers' players were supportive of their coach. I asked Will Sherrill if he would have been surprised had I told him Bennett would be whistled for a technical foul in the final minute of a one-point game.
"I would have been more shocked if the ref would have called a technical foul in the last minute of a one-point game," he responded. The players all say Bennett is intense and passionate, even if it does not come off in a demonstrative manner. Guard Sammy Zeglinski said it was "good" to see Bennett fight for the team like he did.
There is also a debate whether other coaches in the conference would have received a technical foul in the same situation. This is a debate Virginia fans have often, especially when the Cavaliers play Duke or North Carolina -- and there is no way of knowing one way or the other. However, it's clear with which view Sherrill sides.
"University of Virginia doesn't quite have the same respect as other programs in the ACC have," Sherrill said. "We just have to come out and get that respect."
March 8, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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