Randy Bennett's Extension at Saint Mary's Is a Win for Small Schools

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Randy Bennett's Extension at Saint Mary's Is a Win for Small Schools
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 06: Head coach Randy Bennett of the Saint Mary's Gaels gestures during a semifinal game of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Basketball tournament against the Santa Clara Broncos at the Orleans Arena March 6, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Saint Mary's won 73-64. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In 2007, he was supposed to be leaving for Hawaii. In 2008, it was either Cal or Oregon State. Just this last year, ESPN said he was a top candidate for the Utah job.

And yet, on Friday, head coach Randy Bennett signed a ten-year extension with Saint Mary’s.

"We've had great players and assistant coaches who have put a lot of effort into building the program to a level where we can maintain success and continue to build on it,” Bennett told the media on Friday.

Bennett joined in 2001, taking over a team that had gone just 2-27 the year before. Since his hiring, his teams have gone 208-112 overall, and they shared the WCC Championship back in 2010.

The Gaels have made the NCAA three times under Bennett, the last and most successful run coming in 2010, when the Gaels got to the Sweet Sixteen. The last four seasons, Bennett’s Gaels have won at least 25 games.

One of the reasons for the Gaels' emergence as a WCC contender is Bennett’s recruiting and his success in recruiting Australian players. For years, Bennett has recruited some of the country’s best players, including current NBA Player Patrick Mills, who was with the team from 2007 to 2009. He’s also coached talents like Daniel Kickert, Diamon Simpson, Omar Samhan, and last year’s WCC Player of the Year, Mickey McConnell.

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 8: Carlin Hughes #3 and Omar Samhan #50 of the Saint Mary's College Gaels celebrate a 69-64 win along with Head Coach Randy Bennett over the San Diego State Aztecs during the second half for the John Wooden Classic at the Honda Center December 8, 2007 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

"We have great student-athletes, a supportive administration and enthusiastic student and community support for our program,” Bennett said. “My family and I enjoy being at Saint Mary's and living in such a supportive and positive community."

As long as a college coach like Bennett thrives at a small unknown school like Saint Mary's, his name will end up in the coaching searches of larger schools. It happened for years at Saint Mary's—at the end of every season, Bennett's name would pop up in some other larger school's coaching search.

At the end of the 2010-2011 season, after a loss to Kent State in the NIT, Bennett was asked about a report that had him interviewing for the open position at Utah. Bennett said, quite vehemently, "Absolutely not truth to that. Haven't talked to them, and it's irresponsible reporting if anyone said that."

Understandably, some coaches will leave for bigger schools with little loyalty to their previous homes (see: John Calipari), but not all. Bennett has made a name for himself at Saint Mary's, and he's established his "Australian Pipeline." It's great for the Gaels—and for smaller schools everywhere—to see a talented, winning head coach stay in one position for such a long time.

Not always is a coach excited to leave the small town to take on the big lights and the increased pressure. Bennett always said, time and time again, that he was committed to Saint Mary’s, and on Friday, he proved it again.

And that’s a fantastic thing for the Gaels and smaller schools everywhere.

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