Laurel Bennett is the wife of Virginia Cavaliers Head Coach Tony Bennett. Bennett met her future husband, Tony, when she was working as a youth minister at a church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They would soon travel to New Zealand together. The two are devout Evangelical Christians and bonded over their faith, as described by billygraham.org.
In addition to raising the couple’s two children, Anna and Eli, Bennett is an active philanthropist and volunteer who is heavily involved in church activities and community advocacy. Private and barely present on social media, there are few public photos of Bennett available. However, there is a photo gallery of the Bennett family available on fabwags.com.
Bennett’s husband, Coach Tony Bennett, has led an incredibly successful career as the Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, and he largely credits his wife for being a pillar of strength. “She’s the brains behind our whole operation,” said Coach Bennett. “She loves the Lord in a powerful way,” billygraham.org reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Bennetts Met When Laurel Was Working As a Youth Minister in North Carolina. The Two Soon Traveled to New Zealand
“44-year-old Laurel Bennett was born Laurel Purcell, in June, 1971 in Baton Rouge, La. After Laurel graduated from Louisiana State University he moved to Charlotte to attend graduate school while she took an assistant job at the church where as we previously mentioned she met Tony who accepted an invitation to speak there in 1993. They dated for over nine months until they got married, together they have two amazing children Anna, 15, their daughter and son Eli, 14. Laurel was by her husband’s side when he played in New Zealand and Australia, together they helped pastor Jeff Vines to create Shore Community Christian Church.” reports fabwags.com
Tony Bennett was playing for the Charlotte Hornets when he visited one of Billy Graham’s Evangelical Ministries in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The Daily Press details the early lives of the Bennett family as folllows.
“HE SAID HE WOULD NEVER BE A COACH”
By the time McKay went to Portland State, Bennett’s NBA career was finished. The Charlotte Hornets had drafted him in the second round, but recurring foot injuries limited his effectiveness. He was toiling for New Zealand’s North Harbour Vikings, who would eventually make him a player-coach.
Introduced by their pastor in Charlotte, David Chadwick, the Bennetts were newlyweds when they ventured to New Zealand. But coaching was not part of the plan. Tony was playing, while Laurel served as a youth pastor.
“I signed on when he said he would never be a coach,” Laurel Bennett says. “He said, ‘I’ve seen that life and what it does to my dad. It’s crazy.’ I said, ‘Good, because that doesn’t seem like a real good idea to me, either.’ ”
But McKay and others were convinced Bennett was made for coaching, and they beamed in 1999 as he returned from New Zealand and joined his dad’s staff at the University of Wisconsin. In their first season coaching together, father and son helped the Badgers, a program with minimal basketball heritage, reach the 2000 Final Four.
Tony Bennett was hooked. So was Laurel. Coaching was their calling.
Three games into the 2000-01 season, citing burnout, 57-year-old Dick Bennett resigned as Wisconsin’s coach. Tony Bennett remained on the staff as co-worker and friend Brad Soderberg guided the Badgers back to the NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin hired Bo Ryan as its full-time head coach in the spring of 2001, and he retained Bennett as an assistant. There Bennett remained until McKay called his friend Sterk two years later.
Sterk had since become Washington State’s athletic director, and McKay was the University of New Mexico’s head coach. Reeling from seven consecutive losing seasons, Washington State was searching for a new big whistle, and McKay had an idea.
Hire Dick Bennett and designate Tony Bennett as his successor. Soon thereafter, Sterk flew to Wisconsin and met with the Bennetts.
Sterk was sold but offered no guarantees of succession.
“No promises, no prenuptial going in that Tony was going to be the guy,” says Sterk, now Missouri’s athletic director. “But after a couple years I went to my president and said, ‘We need to … give assurances that he’s going to be the guy when Dick retires because if we don’t, some Big Ten school’s going to hire him out from under us.’
“I took some heat for doing it, but then Tony proved me right.”
2. Bennett Limits Her Presence on Social Media & Strongly Protects The Privacy of the Bennetts’ Two Children, Anna & Eli
Coach Tony Bennett reportedly earns $2.43 million; and is signed through 2024. Blessed with financial freedom, Laurel Bennett is able to focus her life on raising her children, taking care of her family, and raising Anna and Eli in a safe environment with its roots in the Evangelical church.
Laurel Bennett is exceptionally beautiful with a vibrant smile, but you would be hard pressed to find a Facebook page run by the real Laurel Bennett full of photos of herself. While Bennett is extremely modest, she is gracious and smiles in photos with fans, maybe of which have been shared on fabwagscom.
Extremely proud of her husband, Bennett often does attend games, but she us usually not photographed right by Coach Bennett. She usually finds a seat to observe the game from a seat somewhat set back, so that the focus will not be on her, but at the same time, she is present and supporting her husband and the Cavaliers.
3. The Bennetts Continue to Raise Their Children As Members of an Evangelical Christian Family
Both Tony and Laurel credit each other and their strong faith in God for their success in Tony’s career and in raising their wonderful children, as told to BillyGraham.org:
“They have two children—a daughter, Anna, 13, and a son, Eli, 12.
‘She’s the brains behind our whole operation,’ Bennett said of Laurel. ‘She loves the Lord in a powerful way.’
Laurel said Tony is a ‘fun dad’ and an extremely thoughtful husband. She has a box full of notes he’s written to her over the years.
‘He writes specific things that he says he appreciates about me as a wife, as a mom, as a Christian,” she said. ‘He takes time to notice the little things, and he’s not vague. He’s always good about making me feel loved.’
Bennett values his coaching job as a gift from God, a position he’s called upon to steward without allowing ambition for success to get out of bounds.”
4. Bennett Has Been Known as The Cavaliers’ First Lady Since Couch Bennett’s Arrival in 2009
The Cavaliers’ First Lady has a pragmatic view of her husband’s work, described as follows:
“Here is how Laurel Bennett describes her husband’s outlook:
‘This is what I do. I’ll give it my best and I’ll live with it. But the other side of that coin is who I am, which is more important than what I do. And I am a child of God, and my values come from something other than my job.’”
5. Laurel and Tony Bennett Followed a Providential Path to UVA
As previously mentioned, Laurel and Tony met while Laurel was working as a youth minister. Tony would have become a pastor, if he had not found his calling as a coach. However, the Bennetts’ faith did not waver once Tony was able to secure a coaching position at UVA; it strengthened it. Now, several members of the Cavaliers attend church with the Bennetts to renew and reinforce their own faith.
Some poke fun at the Christian members of the Cavaliers, including Coach and Mrs. Bennett, referring to them as “the God Squad,” applying the pillars of faith to the game of basketball.
Perhaps Bennett described his personal philosophy best here as to how religion equates to basketball:
Bennett has taken the windfall from last year in stride. Bennett’s prayers, Alsager said, focus not on his success but on the well-being of his wife, his two young children and his players.
“When you have a relationship with Lord,” Bennett said, “there’s a peace and perspective you have. The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away. Your relationship with the Lord and with your friends, that’s what matters.”