Bennett Staying At Washington State
Cougars head coach to stay put in Pullman
March 28, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -Tony Bennett is staying with Washington State, ending speculation he might jump to another school for a more prestigious job after one successful season as Cougars head coach.
Bennett led Washington State to its best season in 60 years and into contention in the Pac-10. The Cougars went 26-8 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Vanderbilt.
Sports information director Rod Commons said Bennett would be staying put and a news conference was planned for later Wednesday at the school's Pullman campus.
Bennett and athletic director Jim Sterk have been discussing a new contract for the 37-year-old coach, who was making about $350,000 a year. Details of the agreement were not announced because it is not final, Commons said.
It was feared that WSU could not match the money some basketball powerhouses might offer Bennett. An e-mail campaign among Cougars boosters raised pledges of more than $250,000 to keep him.
"I plan on being here," Bennett said after the Vanderbilt game. "I really do."
Bennett succeeded his father this season after Dick Bennett spent three years rebuilding one of the most downtrodden major conference programs in the nation.
The Cougars had not had a winning season since 1995-96 and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, and only the fifth time in their history.
The Cougars had been predicted to finish last in the Pacific-10. Instead, they climbed to No. 9 in the Top 25, finished second in the conference, and re-energized the moribund basketball atmosphere at Friel Court.
Attendance at Friel Court jumped from an average of 3,797 per game in '05-06 to 7,177 this season - 8,869 for Pac-10 games.
Bennett recruited nearly all the key players on the team, many of them ignored by other major college programs. All but senior Ivory Clark are expected back next season. That includes guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver and forward Robbie Cowgill, who will all be seniors.
Bennett was an assistant as Wisconsin, and moved with his father to Pullman when Dick Bennett came out of retirement to rebuild the Cougars.