After three years as the head coach of Washington State's basketball program, it's reported that Tony Bennett is leaving Pullman to accept the head job at the University of Virginia. An official announcement has been made by the WSU athletic department:
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University Director of Athletics Jim Sterk confirmed that men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett has accepted the head coaching position at the University of Virginia.
“Dick and Tony Bennett have elevated the men’s basketball program at Washington State to an unprecedented level of success,” Sterk said. “We will begin a national search for a coach immediately with the goal of finding someone with the integrity, experience, and values that Dick and Tony brought to the program.”
Sterk said that Virginia asked for permission to speak with Bennett last Friday. Monday afternoon Bennett informed Sterk and WSU President Elson S. Floyd of his decision to accept the position at Virginia. Following those conversations, Bennett informed his players of his decision.
Following the second of two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances a year ago, Bennett's name came up in connection with just about every top coaching job open in college basketball. However, he spurned all offers to return for his third year this past season.
Last year was a test of patience for both Bennett and Cougar fans. The WSU roster was one of the youngest in the nation, sporting nine freshmen.
Washington State's record last year was a modest 17-16 and settled for a post-season invitation to play in the NIT. The Cougs were easily dispatched for a return trip home by St. Mary's.
Bennett will replace Dave Leitao at the University of Virginia. Leitao's contract was bought out after a disappointing season that saw the Cavaliers falling to 10-18, their worst season in decades. Leitao was the ACC Coach of the Year in 2007. Such is the fate of a college basketball head coach.
This move will come as a surprise to many across Cougar Nation. With such a young roster, it was widely thought Bennett was committed to both these young student/athletes and WSU. Such is the fate of a college basketball fan.
Once an announcement by WSU is made, a closer examination of what happened and where the school looks for new leadership will be explored.
Originally published on Examiner.com