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Friday, April 19, 2024

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Says He’d Fire Championship Coach Because Team Is Boring

In the wake of Virginia’s disastrous offensive performance in the men’s NCAA Tournament’s First Four on Tuesday night in Dayton, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is calling for Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett to be fired.

No, not because Bennett isn’t a good coach. Bennett won a national championship five years ago and is a future Hall of Famer. But instead, because Virginia basketball is boring.

“It’s not funny. I take no joy in saying this. But if it were me, I’d fire him,” Smith said. “Strictly because of being boring. Literally. 

“I’m not questioning his ability as a coach at all. He’s a national champion for crying out loud. I’m not questioning his ability to coach, but you cannot be that boring, that unappealing for so long, and get away with it. … Virginia scores 14 points in the first half. They go the final 9:20 of the first half scoreless, and the final 10:30 of the game without a field goal. … There isn’t a level [of basketball] where I have seen that kind of atrocity.”    

In the five years since winning the national championship in the 2018–19 season, Virginia has missed the tournament twice, has been eliminated in the round of 64 twice and now has also lost in the First Four. The year before the national championship, the Cavaliers also became the first No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to lose to a No. 16 seed (UMBC).

The tournament woes in six of the last seven seasons have raised questions about Bennett and his system at Virginia, and the national championship-winning coach will now have to adapt to buck the narrative that he can no longer win with his program’s style of play. 

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