TONY BENNETT TO VIRGINIA
Washington Stateâ€™s Tony Bennett is the next head basketball coach of the University of Virginia Cavaliers. He will make $1.7 million a year and start with a five-year contract. (Link)
Bennett is a 39 year-old former Charlotte Hornet who compiled a 68-30 record in three seasons at Washington State, one of which included a trip to the Sweet 16. Bennett matched a school record for wins by leading his FIRST Washington State squad to 26 wins (26-8 record) and a second-place finish in the conference with a 13-5 mark after being selected LAST in the preseason Pac-10 poll. That was good enough to get WSU into their first NCAA Tournament in 13 years.
I saw some people on Pack Pride talking about Bennett in the framework of Herb Sendek because of the unimpressive production of Bennettâ€™s Cougarsâ€™ offenses. For those of you who need a little benchmarking to help frame your perspective – in 2007-08 â€“ only Bennettâ€™s second year after taking over the worst team in the Pac-10, Washington State was ranked in the AP preseason poll (10th) for the first time in school history and was ranked a school-record No. 4 for six weeks during the season. They held a Top 10 ranking for at least eleven weeks of that season. By comparison, Herb Sendek has coached college basketball for sixteen years and has never held a Top 10 ranking in a single week. Bennettâ€™s offense may have been comparative to Sendekâ€™s, but the results of the two men certainly donâ€™t have much in comparison.
I tend to believe that Virginia fans should be more thrilled than they seem to be. This guy can downright coach! Just last year Bennett turned down the Head Coaching job at the University of Indiana! Think about this – when Indiana â€“ who ultimately got a great coach in Tom Crean â€“ identifies you as the guy they want then you canâ€™t be a bad choice. That doesnâ€™t stop some from already asking if Bennett is a fit?
A poster on one of the message boards made a comment that akin to something that I said while speaking with friends — â€˜Herbâ€™s job just got easier (in the Pac-10) and Coach Loweâ€™s job just got tougher (in the ACC).
Kudos to TheSabre.com for running this excellent analysis.
Regardless of the hire, I tip my hat to Virginiaâ€™s AD, Craig Littlepage. They kept this out of the media, no one tipped hand, no crazy rumors really escalated. In the end, they got a guy that the national media will swoon about hiring, a tireless worker, a great character guy. And, they managed to do it all under two weeks and without having a nervous breakdown causing him to lose 30 pounds.
On a related note, The ACC Area Sports Journal’s Jim Young has put together a great analysis of the performance (to date) of coaches that took their positions in 2006 (including Tony Bennett at Washington State). You can see Young’s work clicking here.