CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- In a social media age, Virginia men's basketball Coach Tony Bennett stays away from the distraction of Twitter, but luckily for fans one man more than a couple rows away has him covered.
"I didn't really have any expectations with it," Phony Bennett said, "It was just have fun and maybe it would last a few months and here we are almost seven years later."
Chris Dembitz, aka Phony Bennett, logged onto Twitter in 2012 to offer fellow Wahoo fans a comedic take on their coach from taking a dig at a rival or whatever else pops into his head.
You stole my heart— Phony Bennett (@IfTonyTweeted) February 14, 2019
And my postseason dream
You’re more than a 10
Girl, you a 16 https://t.co/s5CWqI2KT3
"I'm sitting there on Valentine's Day morning drinking coffee and I see [UMBC]'s and next thing I know that's my biggest tweet," Dembitz said of one his most recent tweets.
But for Dembitz, the Phony Bennett character offers more than a couple jokes. In 2011, when his youngest daughter, Audrey, was born with neuroblastoma cancer, the real Bennett and the Wahoos offered light in a dark time.
"Kind of through that process, Virginia basketball watching them, that was my escape because there was always kind of this darkness there," the UVA alum said, "You're worried and it's constant time at the children's hospital and all."
As Audrey's health improved, the former stand-up comedian wanted to find his funny again and Phony Bennett was born.
"When I got to 100 followers, I'm like 100 followers? That's crazy because that was more than the real me had," Dembitz recalled, "That's when I realized the fake me is more interesting than the real me."
Now with more than 15,000 followers, Dembitz is at a point fans and even potential recruits are mistaking him for the real deal.
A tradition like no other: Having to break the news to a parent that I can’t recruit their kid because I’m not a real coach. Hurts every time.— Phony Bennett (@IfTonyTweeted) March 12, 2019
Truly, the hardest part of being a fake coach.
"Recently, I had an assistant coach at a program that I won't name reach out because he's looking for mentors and I was like "Man you may have noticed this is Phony Bennett, I've got no advice for you," Dembitz said.
At one point Dembitz considered leaving it all behind, but as the real Tony Bennett has taken off, Phony Bennett is now ingrained in UVA basketball.
"Like it or not, it's a big part of my life," Dembitz said, who goes to home games with his older daughter Ella, "At this point I always have Twitter up somewhere, but most times I like it."