The stories, speculation and rumors about Coach Tony Bennett being courted by Indiana University finally became a reality Saturday night. It's been reported by reputable sources that a Hoosier representative (more than likely their athletic director) put a call in to Bennett.
Word is that Indiana wasn't going to make the call if they weren't pretty darn sure Bennett would accept. Preliminary feelers would get a read for whether or not Coach Bennett wanted their job.
For whatever reason, the folks in the know around the Hoosier program want things to look pretty rosy with their selection for a new head coach. Who knows why it might be PR problem for one or two well placed candidates to decline? Then again, who knows what they were doing when hiring former WSU head man Kelvin Sampson? Now they are worried about image at Indiana? Oh my. Enough said.
After the phone conversation between the principals covered some preliminary points regarding the opportunity to be the next head coach for Indiana, Coach Bennett told them he didn't want to pursue their offer. Heck, that's a classy way of doing things.
Rather than get the folks at Indiana all lathered up about the prospects of snagging one of the top young coaches in the country, Bennett politely changed the topic to weather. Can't you picture how that chat might have gone?
Indiana: "What do you think about coaching in the Big Ten, the premier athletic conference in the nation and a school with five NCAA basketball championships?"
Coach Bennett, "That's quite a challenge, but actually the Pac-10 is tougher. And by the way, how cold is it back there? It's near freezing here in Pullman. You won't get me out on a night like this."
That said, Cougar Nation can now breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Yes, things have changed dramatically for WSU basketball fans. Used to be at the end of the season we talked about how the incoming class of recruits were going to turn things around. Or talk up a new coach. Or talk about getting a new coach. But oh, the times are changing.
Like last year, the talk after the Cougs season ended this season was all about what university was going to steal Coach Bennett away. He was a hot commodity in coaching circles following the 2007 season. In 2008 he's even hotter. Oh yeah. He's a handsome fellow, too.
Wait until next year.
With a solid class of recruits coming in, it looks as though Coach Bennett is getting some of the athletic talent he will need to lead the Cougs on a Pac-10 title run and deeper into the NCAA Tourney. And if things play out the way they could and should, there will be another big time university or two looking to replace a head coach they've fired calling Coach Bennett.
As long as Coach Bennett is at Washington State University, fans are going to love him. That's guaranteed. But that's not all. You can bet that other schools with deflated fans will be begging for the talented Coach Bennett.
Cougar Nation...live with it. Welcome to the Bennett Ball era.
It's great to hear that Coach Tony Bennett is happy in Pullman.
On behalf of Cougar Nation, the feeling is mutual.