MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Following every win along Virginia's run to the Final Four, the Cavaliers have been greeted by the same smiling face while returning to the locker room.
UVA athletics director Carla Williams reached the Sweet 16 as a player at Georgia, then was an assistant on back-to-back Final Four teams with the Bulldogs in 1995 and 1996. After Georgia finished as the national runner-up in 1996, Williams began the transition to athletics administration.
She had only been at UVA a few months when the Cavaliers made history with last March's loss to No. 16 seed UMBC in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. At US Bank Stadium on Friday, Williams called this year's UVA run to the Final Four "rewarding."
“You just go back to everything Tony has said since last year," Williams said. "And it was a painful experience, but they learned so much from it. And I think the story, the messaging, the experience that our players have gained will serve them for a lifetime.”
Williams recalled being "blown away" by UVA men's basketball coach Tony Bennett the first time they met, a day prior to her introduction at Virginia in October of 2017. On Friday, she described Bennett as both a great leader, and a great developer of young men.
Saturday's game against Auburn will be Bennett's first Final Four game as a head coach. It will be the UVA program's first appearance in the national semifinals since 1984, and the third in school history.
On Friday, Williams called the men's basketball team's postseason run a tremendous benefit to the entire UVA athletic program.
"Our coaches are so supportive of each other. I've heard from our other coaches and staff members and student-athletes. Tony has," Williams said. "This is a family. It really is. Everyone shared in that adversity last year, and everyone is sharing in the journey this year."