Virginia After WSU: A Difference In Expectations For Bennett?

Alex GregoryContributor IApril 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Head Coach Tony Bennett of the Washington State Cougars instructs his team during their game against the UCLA Bruins in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at the Staples Center on March 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Forget the southern accents (which really aren't that southern in a state that has become more and more mid-atlantic, like Delaware, than southern, like Tennessee).

The biggest difference new UVA Coach Tony Bennett will find in Virginia is a bit of a difference in basketball expectations. 

It's not an overwhelming change, but it's at least one he needs to be aware of.

While Virginia alums may pride themselves on having attended a school where sports are not the main attraction (and they aren't, not by a long shot)...the University did just shell out $1.7 million a year for a new basketball coach.

So even though the UVA fans won't expect the same things they expect year-in and year-out at Kentucky—which just hired a $4 million per year used-car salesman—they do expect a little something-something in return.

And...they always have.

Let's look at the past 50 years of coaches at Virginia and Washington State, to get a glimpse of the coaching expectations where Bennett is coming from and where he is going.

Since 1960, there have been four coaches who won at least as many games as they lost at Virginia; and three coaches fitting that description at Washington State.

So what has happened to the coaches between .500 (mediocre) and .600 (good)? 

At one school, they are considered to have done a bang-up job and eventually move to greener pastures. Very bad for fans!

At the other, they seem to get fired. Very bad for the coach.

Tony Bennett (.676 in three seasons)—left! For Virginia in 2009.
George Raveling (.551 in 11 seasons)—left! For Iowa in 1983.
Kelvin Sampson (.500 in seven seasons)—left! For Oklahoma in 1994.

Terry Holland (.653 in 16 seasons)—retired in 1990.
Jeff Jones (.584 in eight seasons)—fired! In 1998.
Pete Gillen (.559 in seven seasons)—fired! In 2005.
Dave Leitao (.512 in four seasons)—fired! In 2009.

Of seven decent coaches at two schools, only one had a result that you would hope for as a fan. 

A coach who does a very good job (I consider a 60-70 percent career winning percentage to be very good at an ACC school like Virginia) and decides to stay at your school for basically his entire coaching career.

As any Virginia fan knows, that man was Terry Holland. (And the same thing happened more recently in football with George Welsh, .609 in 19 seasons before retiring.) 

To this day, Coach Holland is beloved in Charlottesville.

So...what does this mean for Bennett?

It means the man has got to be able to deal with some expectations. They aren't overwhelming at Virginia, but they are there.

And if he can meet those expectations, Charlottesville is somewhere he will never want to leave.

But maybe we've just been lucky so far?

It seems a whopping five coaches (three basketball coaches and two football coaches: Dennis Erickson and Mike Price) have left Washington State for other, less remote, jobs in the past 30 years.

Perhaps because it is far less remote, there's never been a coach in either sport who has left the University of Virginia for another school.  In fact, I can't seem to find even an Olympic sport where a coach has left UVA for a "greener pasture."

The fact is, the pastures near Charlottesville are pretty darned green. And they usually come filled with horses. But is that enough?

WSU fans, likely out of bitterness, have been claiming up and down, left and right, that "mercenary Tony" will only leave for "the Wisconsin job" as soon as it opens up.

People neglect to mention that Bennett didn't attend Wisconsin-Madison, where he was only ever an assistant coach before taking the same job at Washington State. 

He actually played his ball at Wisconsin-Green Bay, a three-hour drive away! So I don't think it's likely that he'll ever leave the ACC to go coach at his alma mater.

Think about it: did Hoosier native John Wooden go back and take the IU job once he started winning at UCLA? Of course not. He already had everything he needed with the Bruins.

And Bennett will always have everything he needs with the Cavaliers.

Charlottesville is perpetually ranked among the very top places to live for a family, Virginia's basketball facilities are among the best in the country, and there are more and better athletes in this region than in the Big Ten or Pac-10.

If Bennett wins here, I think he's going to stay a good long while.

The only thing that could pull a coach away from this place is unrealistic (froth-mouthed-like-a-Kentucky-fan) expectations in Charlottesville.

At this point, I don't think he has anything to be worried about. 

I hope he never does.


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