“I have more than I need.”
With those words, University of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett entered an exclusive fraternity: People who turn down raises.
Granted, Bennett is earning a bundle. His total compensation from all sources is said to be more than $5 million a year. He no doubt does have more than he needs, but it’s easy to convince yourself that you deserve more.
Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of the Duke University team that did not reach the NCAA Final Four—with a team so good three of his freshmen were among the first 10 players chosen in the NBA draft—earns nearly $9 million annually, almost twice what Bennett makes.
The Wahoos are coming off a year in which they won the national championship, the first time a school from Virginia had won the title in either men’s basketball or football, the NCAA’s two big-money sports. Bennett certainly would not have been criticized for accepting the half-million-dollar raise offered to him.
Instead, he said he was making enough already, although he did accept a one-year extension to his contract, which now has seven years to go. U.Va. might have gone for a 70-year deal if he had asked.
Bennett has talked the talk since turning U.Va. into an basketball powerhouse. He preaches to his players about humility, passion, servanthood and thankfulness. With this latest move, he is walking the walk.
Bennett and his wife, Laurel, have gone further than that. They also have pledged $500,000 toward a career-development program for current and former Virginia players. When U.Va. President Jim Ryan said the Bennetts demonstrated what it means “to be great and good,” he pretty much nailed it.
Major-college men’s basketball is a business. Coaches who do good, but whose teams are not great, get fired. Coaches who have fleeting success often trade on that success by wangling a richer contract at another school. Players are expected to spend enough time honing their sports skills that they probably should be called athlete-students rather than the other way around.
In this environment, it is beyond heartening to see a coach leave something on the table, to look beyond his stock portfolio and give back, knowing when he has more than he needs.