Coach turns down ‘significant’ raise: The ‘Five Pillars’ of true prosperity

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Coach Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers celebrate winning the 2019 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Tournament.

Ask the average American to identify “Tony Bennett” and they’ll point you to the big band singer. They might even have “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” playing in their mind as they do so.

Today, however, the “other” Tony Bennett is making headlines. 

The one who just declined what his employer called a “substantial” raise so others could make more money. The one who, after his Virginia Cavaliers won this year’s NCAA national basketball championship, told his players: “Promise me you will remain humble and thankful for this. Don’t let this change you. It doesn’t have to.” 

That Tony Bennett is making news not just for what he does, but for who he is. 

The “Five Pillars” of life 

When his team won the national title last April, Bennett told a post-game interviewer, “I do want to thank the Lord and my Savior.” He regularly prays for his players in the hope that “they’ll be able to find the truth in their lives that has really transformed my life.” 

He has built his basketball program around the biblical principles of humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness. He calls them the “Five Pillars.” He posted them in Virginia’s locker room and emphasizes them in everything the team does. 

It’s therefore not surprising that when the University of Virginia offered Bennett a large raise as a reward for winning the national title, the coach turned it down. “I have more than I need,” he said. “I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.” 

He credits his wife, Laurel, with the decision to redirect the money into additional compensation for his staff and improvements for their program. He and Laurel have also pledged $500,000 toward a career-development program for current and former Virginia basketball players. 

Coach Bennett has life figured out:

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