The Championship Lesson That Sticks With Anthony Gill 10 Years After ACC Title

February 8, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

While it was a jubilant scene and the climax of a remarkable season in University of Virginia men’s basketball history, Anthony Gill needed a moment to step away from it all.

It was mid-afternoon on March 16, 2014, and the court at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina was covered in confetti. The Cavaliers had just defeated Duke University, 72-63, to win the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship in 38 years.

UVA players, such as Gill, were in a state of bliss following the game’s final buzzer. Donning newly issued championship hats and T-shirts, they ran around hugging each other, their coaches, and any friends or family members who sneaked down to join them on the playing surface.

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After a while, though, Gill removed himself from the chaos. He was exhausted.

“I just remember laying down on our bench,” he said, “and being like, ‘Wow, I’ve never been more tired than this right here.’”

The fatigue, he said, wasn’t from the 26 minutes he played in the game. He was drained from rejoicing over a then-unique achievement. 

“I think we were all just yelling because we never had won like that before,” Gill said, “and we had no idea how to celebrate.”

A decade later, Gill’s alma mater has grown accustomed to landmark victories.

Coach Tony Bennett’s program has won at least a share of six of the last 10 regular-season ACC titles. The Wahoos won another conference tournament title in 2018, won a national championship in 2019 and are entering Tuesday’s game against the University of Pittsburgh on an eight-game winning streak and one game behind the University of North Carolina for the ACC lead.

Anthony raising an award in triumph
Gill scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help the Cavaliers defeat Duke in the 2014 ACC tournament championship game. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

Gill hasn’t contributed to a UVA win since he scored 23 points to lead the Cavaliers over Iowa State University in the Sweet 16 round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. But the lessons he gained from being a prominent part of the Hoos’ rise to a national power still resonate with him as he navigates an NBA career.

Gill, a two-time All-ACC player for Virginia, is in his fourth season with the Washington Wizards. The 31-year-old is also the father of four children, ages 6 months to 6 years.

Nearly a full decade after that epic celebration in Greensboro, UVA Today caught up with Gill at the Wizards’ practice facility. 

Q. What sticks with you from that 2013-14 season?

A. That year, we just all came together as a group. It really showed me how to serve – sacrifice your own game – for the greater good. And that’s kind of helped me to where I am now. I’ve been in the NBA for a few years and my role is, again, servanthood. And I love it. And I learned that at UVA.

It’s how they run the whole organization. From top to bottom, every single coach ingrained in me that I have to help serve the next man and humble myself in a way that would benefit the team.

Q. That team won 30 games and advanced to the Sweet 16. Did that feel like the start of something special for the program?

A. For sure. After a while, the challenge was us figuring out how to consistently do the same thing over and over again and get the same results. A lot of times people get bored with success and at the time, coach Bennett’s system, it wasn’t that appealing to everybody.

But we were able to fall in love with that style of play and understand that if we repeated it over and over again, we were going to be successful. We ended up falling in love with the winning that came with all the hard work and sacrifice.

Q. How has your relationship with coach Bennett evolved over the years?

Anthony shooting a basketball toward the hoop

Gill has appeared in 158 games over his four seasons with the Wizards. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

A. We definitely stay in touch. I try to get down there two or three times a year. He’s definitely one of those people that I look up to in my life, just to see how he lives his life every single day. He’s played in the NBA and obviously we have some of the same beliefs, we have the same faith and everything like that, so I can lean on him a lot in the way that he lives his life.

Tony, he’s very similar to me in the sense of he doesn’t want any of the fame, the accolades, hates doing interviews, hates doing pictures, all that kind of stuff. So he’s one of the guys I really look up to in that way.

Q. After your final game at UVA, a crushing loss to Syracuse in the Elite Eight, Bennett famously recited a Bible verse: “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Have you, in any way, relied on that message in your professional career?

A. Yeah, but I think one that sticks with me more is, we had a year, my junior year, where he would end every single meeting we ever had with, “You are covered.” So all the work we’ve already done, going into each game, the game is already covered because of how much work we’ve already put in, and God has us covered, he has our plan covered. 

That one sticks with me more than anything. So any obstacle I may face now, anything that I may have to encounter now, I know that I’m covered. That was one of the principles he instilled in me that still stays with me to this day.

Q. What’s it like juggling four kids and playing in the NBA?

A. Let me tell you, my wife is a superstar. She does it all. I do have four kids at home, but the person that’s there every day grinding is my wife. I’ll go out of town for sometimes a week at a time, and the person that’s there on the grind with them every single day is her.

Active shot of Anthony
Gill has embraced his “servant” role with the Wizards, something he said he learned while in Tony Bennett’s program at UVA. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

And then when I come back, she somehow finds a way to make it so that we go on date nights and everything like that and making sure our relationship is still amazing.

So, my wife is the real superhero there. All I have to do is support my wife and raise my kids in a way that would please God.

Q. What are your career goals after your playing days are over?

A. I would love to be in a front office somewhere. That would be my ultimate goal – learn the ins and outs of the business of basketball and then work my way up. Maybe a general manager or something like that. That’s my ultimate goal.

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications