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Pitt HC Jeff Capel, Virginia HC Tony Bennett Share Friendship Beyond Court

Pitt Panthers head coach Jeff Capel and Tony Bennett celebrate each other's success as good friends.

PITTSBURGH -- Pitt Panthers head coach Jeff Capel has never been shy about sharing his admiration for Virginia basketball and the way their own head coach, Tony Bennett has built a model of consistency and success in college basketball - 10 20-win seasons, eight NCAA Tournament berths, four NCAA Tournament one-seeds and a national championship. 

Listen back to Capel's press conferences from each of his more than four seasons at Pitt and you will hear him routinely use the Cavaliers' disciplined brand of basketball - derived from their long-time head coach - as an example for what good teams look like.

"We have so much respect for Virginia’s program," Capel said. "You could say they’ve been maybe the standard bearer in this league for the past eight to 10 years and in order to beat them, you have to beat them because they don’t beat themselves. You have to be tough, you have to be tough for 40 minutes, you have to be together and you have to fight."

But on a night when Capel's Panthers beat the Cavaliers for the first time in their past eight attempts, Bennett was ready to praise the work his friend has done bringing Pitt back to national prominence. He said Capel's been unlucky during his time in Pittsburgh but has continued to run his program well despite the misfortune. 

“I’m happy for Jeff," Bennett said. "Discouraged about our performance but I’m happy for Jeff because he’s a good man, he’s a good coach and he’s been victim to stuff that has been troubling in terms of losing players. He coaches the right way and he’s got a good, tough team but he’s lost players - whether it be injuries, transfers, other reasons - and they do things the right way.”

Capel returned the kind words following his 68-65 win over No. 11 Virginia at the Petersen Events Center and added that he cherishes his relationship with Bennett.   

“There’s no coach I respect more than Tony," Capel said. "I respect the way he goes about things. I respect the way he runs his program. I respect the way his program represents the ACC and college basketball in general. There’s no better guy in college basketball than Tony. So I’m grateful for that, but probably more importantly, I’m grateful for his friendship.”

Bennett closed his postgame comments by saying he will be rooting for Capel as his team moves on this season. Despite the fact that they are conference adversaries, there is a mutual respect that compels them to root for one another. 

“I respect he and his brother and that staff," Bennett said. "Don’t know many of the players but he’s off to a good start. For his sake, I hope he keeps up with it.”

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