Will Former WSU Coach Tony Bennett Find a Price at Virginia?

Lew WrightSenior Writer IMarch 31, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 27:  Head coach Tony Bennett of the Washington State Cougars points against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2008 NCAA Men's East Regional Semifinal at Bobcats Arena on March 27, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

While we wait for official word from University of Virginia officials, a deal making former Washington State basketball coach Tony Bennett a Cavalier has been finalized.

Or has it?


A bit of advice for Bennett: Be sure to take a ball point pen with you and use it to ink what is most certainly a generous contract to become the new head coach and leader of the Virginia basketball program.


There's a lesson to be learned from another beloved former Cougar head coach: Mike Price.


As a refresher, Price toiled for years to develop a competitive Pac 10 football program at Washington State. That effort paid finally off, or at least that’s how things appeared.


A nice run of 10-win seasons at WSU earned Price a place among those coveted “top” jobs in college football.


When Alabama called, Price answered and headed off to revive a once-proud football program.

But when Price arrived in Tuscaloosa, he wasn’t greeted with open arms by fans and supporters of the Crimson Tide.


In their minds, he was small time from a small school in a small town, coaching in a small conference.


In a mysterious turn of events, one of the nicest men in college football found himself in the midst of a scandal that gave the Alabama administration an out. Price was summarily dismissed before he could lead the Crimson Tide onto the field for the first time.


What makes his story a tragedy by Greek standards is that he never got around to signing a contract with Alabama.


Bring a pen with you to Charlottesville, Tony. And most importantly, use it before it’s too late.


There is quite a parallel between the hirings of both Price and Bennett.


Both men were key figures in raising the level of their respective athletic programs at Washington State.


This point is going to come off as trite, or even flip, but it applies: Both of these men are good guys. They were an excellent fit in Pullman, and though both have moved on to other head coaching jobs, they will always be admired for their hard work at WSU.


Here’s the rub.


Both men left Washington State to coach at universities where the supporters and fans felt they were being asked to settle for small time head coaches.


That’s right, there’s nothing cavalier about the tone of radio talk shows and blogs in Virginia responding to the hiring of Coach Bennett.


Virginia and ACC fans crave fast-paced, high-scoring college basketball, frequently punctuated by thunderous slam dunks.


That is the exact opposite of Bennett Ball.


Virginia fans had a coach who was voted ACC Coach of the Year in 2007 and they still issued him a check for over $2million to go away after one down season.


In case you have forgotten, the Cougs won nine fewer games this season than the previous year, when they were a Sweet Sixteen team. But WSU fans were looking forward to next season with Coach Bennett firmly in place and under contract.


Wild speculation over who will be the next head basketball coach for Washington State will spread far and near across the media in the coming days.


Pausing in the midst of the upheaval of Cougar basketball, not only should Cougar Nation wish Bennett and his family well in their future endeavors, but we shoudl also offer up a solid suggestion:


Take a ball point pen with you Tony, and use it!





Originally published on Examiner.com

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