Virginia men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett has begun negotiating a lucrative contract extension with Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, less than a week after the team’s memorable season ended in the Sweet 16, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.
Bennett, who is currently signed through 2019, is also in the process of obtaining raises and new contracts for his coaching staff. Associate head coach Ritchie McKay earned $300,000 this past season, and his deal is set to expire Wednesday. Assistant coaches Jason Williford, a finalist for the head coaching job at American last year, and Ron Sanchez both have one year remaining on two-year contracts worth $165,000 annually.
Upon being hired by Virginia before the 2009-10 season, Bennett agreed to a five-year contract with an annual salary of $1.7 million. When the Cavaliers qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2011, he inked a five-year extension that did not raise his compensation level.
But Bennett is likely due a substantial raise, particularly after Virginia Tech signed new Coach Buzz Williams to a seven-year contract worth $18.2 million. Williams is due $2.3 million next season, and that sum will rise by $100,000 each season. Bennett is expected to command more than that given his success this past year.
The Hokies also raised their assistant coach salary pool to $725,000 — $95,000 more than what Virginia is currently paying its assistant coaches.
Bennett’s current deal, however, became considerably more attractive this year because of several incentives he earned when Virginia won its first outright ACC regular season championship since 1981, captured the ACC tournament title since 1976 and secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 30 years.
Bennett earned an extra $325,000 in incentives for being voted ACC Coach of the year ($50,000), winning the ACC tournament ($100,000), finishing in the top 10 of the national polls ($75,000) and taking Virginia to the Sweet 16 ($100,000). He was also due a $500,000 longevity bonus following this season.
Including a $500,000 signing bonus when he first arrived in Charlottesville, Bennett has earned more than $9.8 million the past five years.
Through a school spokesman, Littlepage did not address whether he was negotiating a new contract with Bennett. But in a statement, he noted just how much Virginia’s run through this season meant to the school.
“Coach Bennett and his staff have done a great job implementing a plan for success over the course of their five seasons at U-Va,” Littlepage said. “The 2013-14 Virginia men’s basketball team embodied the characteristics and style of play Tony envisioned when he became our head coach. We will always remember this team for its many notable accomplishments, including winning Virginia’s first ACC championship since 1976.
“The support our fans played in the team’s success was noteworthy as well since many of our postseason games felt like they were being played at John Paul Jones Arena. We’re very appreciative of the efforts of our fans and I know the team couldn’t have achieved its success without everyone’s loyal support.”
Though Virginia will lose seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell to graduation, the Cavaliers are set to be one of the ACC’s top teams again next season. Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon, a redshirt sophomore this past year, will be back and sophomore reserves Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill are expected to take on expanded roles.
Freshman point guard London Perrantes, sophomores Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte, and junior Darion Atkins will also be part of the team’s rotation. Freshman Devon Hall, who redshirted this past season, and a three-member recruiting class will provide depth. The Cavaliers still have one scholarship open for next year if they choose to sign another recruit or go after a transfer.
“We are gonna be back in this spot next year,” Gill said in the locker room moments after Virginia’s Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State Friday night. “We have the pieces to do it.”