NCAA championship game: How Dick Bennett beat his anxiety and watched his son Tony win Virginia's first title

MINNEAPOLIS -- Legendary coach Dick Bennett can barely stand to watch his son Tony when he's on the sidelines coaching the Cavaliers. It's not by choice. Bennett's anxiety has kept him away, a direct connection of caring and worrying too much. Fear of bad luck, jinx, all that.

But Bennett swallowed those well-documented thoughts Monday in Minneapolis. He was on hand to watch his son coach in the NCAA championship, and he was there, taking it all in, when the confetti was flying and his son's team had been crowned champions. The 85-77 overtime victory couldn't have been easy on the elder Bennett, 75.

"You can't -- words aren't very accurate when your emotions outrun them, and that's kind of where I am right now," Bennett said. 

Bennett reflected on the game and the last year in a postgame interview on Monday at U.S. Bank Stadium. He pointed to Virginia's devastating first round loss to UMBC which made Virginia the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed, and marveled at how Tony could handle such a crushing event so gracefully.

"Last year was about as tough as it could be, but because [Tony] handled it so well, it made it easier on the rest of us," Dick Bennett said. "Had he been so brokenhearted, it would have been very difficult. But he's always handled things, he has a higher view of things."

The younger Bennett this week in Minneapolis has time and again pointed to his faith and family as pillars that have sustained him throughout the last year. Some may say it was the lowest of lows, but Bennett's perspective and beliefs have kept him grounded and allowed him to see the larger picture in life. 

"He appreciates it for what it is," Bennett said. "He loves the game, he loves these kids. He'll probably enjoy it, but he won't go crazy about it. He never has, ever since he was a kid."

Bennett has skipped games often over the years -- "I pay the price for allowing my priorities to get out of whack," he said -- but not this time. He was not missing his son's crowning achievement. Not the 2019 national championship game.

"I had to be here," he said. "Just had to be here. No matter -- I said to somebody else, I thought it was more important to be here in case they lost. Of course I wanted to see what happened tonight, but to not be there at a moment when things don't go right, that's when parents need to be around. Although we're kind of old and he's kind of old himself, he didn't need me here. But I felt like I needed to be."

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