CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia coach Tony Bennett said Sunday that kicking heralded transfer forward Austin Nichols off the team was a difficult decision but the right thing for his No. 8 Cavaliers and for Nichols.
Bennett dismissed Nichols, who was expected to anchor Virginia's interior offense, on Friday night. He gave no reason other than a ''violation of team rules,'' but he had also suspended the 6-foot-9 redshirt junior from two scrimmages and the Cavaliers' season-opener at UNCG for an unspecified team rules violation.
''As a coach, you don't want to do hard things, unless you think it's the right thing for your team and for a young man involved,'' Bennett said after Virginia beat Yale 62-38. ''It's just one of those situations. We always talk about there's a standard we have. Certainly showing compassion and grace, but there's also accountability and truth that comes with every situation, and with this case, that's how we dealt with it with Austin. I love Austin. My hope is that this will be a turning point for him and he'll take the right steps.''
Nichols, one of the most coveted transfers following the 2014-15 season, averaged 13.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocks as a sophomore at Memphis. He sat out last year and played in just one game this year, scoring 11 points against St. Francis Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The past few days have been stressful, Bennett said.
''That's the stuff you don't like about coaching, but that's the necessary stuff that's far more impactful and lasting to the guys in the program, those decisions you make,'' he said. ''Hopefully it'll make a difference in the big picture. I don't have it all figured out and I've made so many mistakes in my own life, but I'm hoping that we're doing the right things, the wise things for Austin's case, for the young men in our program and that we'll keep taking the right steps forward. I just want to hopefully lead them well and our staff and go forward.
''But yeah, not easy, not at all. Been hard, for sure.''
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