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Tony Bennett Departs For Virginia

Former Washington State head basketball Coach Tony Bennett gives the “Thumbs up” sign to fans and media standing behind a wire fence and calling his name, before he boarded a private jet leaving Pullman on Monday at the Moscow-Pullman Airport. A small number of Washington State Basketball fans turned out to see the former coach one last time before he headed east shortly after announcing his departure from WSU. Bennett will take the job of head coach at the University of Virginia. Tyler Tjomsland/Spokesman-Review.

ECoug01: Tony Bennett Is An A-Rod

ECoug01: Tony has A-rodded us. … I am so pissed. Don’t tell us how much you love pullman, want to build a program, raise kids and have no desire to leave, sign an extension for 1 million bucks in pullman (which is equivalent to 2 mill in seattle at least) and then drop us a year later. If you are going to hit the road do it last year when I was prepared you would probably use WSU as a stepping stone to bigger schools. No more WSU legend in the works, no more hall of fame.

Question: Do you agree with ECoug01 that Tony Bennett has pulled an A-Rod — or Dennis Erickson, for that matter — taking the money, prestige, and running? Or is he something better than that?

WSU still reeling over Bennett decision

COUGARS• UPDATED: 11:45 A.M.; 3:55 P.M.

The nature of the news, the suddenness of it all, is what hit Cougar nation in between the eyes. After dodging the bullet last year, when Indiana, LSU and Marquette all came a courting, WSU fans were pretty sure men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett was staying in Pullman for another year, and probably two more, as he rebuilt a program once again suffering from a lack of upper-class bodies and talent. But the news came quickly just after noon Monday. Heck, athletic director Jim Sterk, who, along with school president Elson J. Floyd, met with Bennett over the weekend to discuss Virginia’s offer, thought the bullet had whizzed by once again and he was out of town with his family. Then came the early afternoon phone call, the team meeting and, before the sun set on the Palouse, Bennett was on a jet toward his future in the Atlantic Coast Conference, six years and one day after he arrived with his father Dick. Read on for thoughts and links.

• UPDATE: Virginia makes it official. You can read the release here.

UPDATE NO. 2: USD coach Bill Grier, mentioned by Sterk as someone he wants to talk with, told the San Diego Union Tribune today he wasn’t interested in the WSU position.

Bennett leaving WSU for Virginia


COUGARS • UPDATED: 10:20 P.M.

Just finished talking with some of the players and it’s true. Tony Bennett is leaving Washington State University to become the head basketball coach at the University of Virginia. The players are shocked, the administration is shocked, the assistant coaches are shocked. We will have more soon. You can read the news here. UPDATE: We have updated our story with the latest version all night (you can find it on the link above). We’ll have more on Bennett’s decision and the search for his replacement in the morning. Until then …

WSU’s Tony Bennett Going To Virginia

Tony Bennett, who led Washington State to its first appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2008, will be named head coach at Virginia. Washington State director of athletics Jim Sterk confirmed that Bennett has accepted the head-coaching position at Virginia on Tuesday. “Dick and Tony Bennett have elevated the men’s basketball program at Washington State to an unprecedented level of success,” Sterk said in a statement released by the university. “We will begin a national search for a coach immediately with the goal of finding someone with the integrity, experience, and values that Dick and Tony brought to the program”/ESPN. More here.

Question: Are you surprised that successful WSU basketball coach Tony Bennett is moving on?

WSU has an efficient start to spring


COUGARS

Good morning. Washington State opened spring practice yesterday afternoon with a spirited and actually quite efficient – considering it was the first day – workout. Read on for more thoughts.

WSU news on a spring day


COUGARS

An action-packed morning awaits on the World Wide Web, Washington State style. There are stories. There are comments. There are millions and millions of words dedicated to the Cougars. OK, I exaggerate. But there are a few. Read on.

WSU will be young next season

COUGARS

We did a football story tonight (and posted it here). And we finished up our look at the basketball season. It’s not just a look back, of course. It’s also a look ahead. Read on.

One more day to WSU spring football


COUGARS

We actually have some WSU news. And, being Paul Wulff is holding a spring football news conference this afternoon – and we will have a story on that plus more – it will be a busy day here at SportsLink, WSU edition. Read on.

WSU shows its smarts


COUGARS

A couple Pac-10 notes. The conference announced its all-academic men’s basketball team and the next commissioner. And no, Condoleeza Rice was not mentioned in either release. Read on.

Students return as WSU prepares for spring


COUGARS

With spring break finally over at WSU – A whole week? What’s happened to our educational system? – we should finally get a chance to talk with some of the basketball players about the season just ended. Then there is the other thing that happens this week, spring football. It’s only the two days of helmet-only conditioning, but it’s a start. Just think, last year we were in North Carolina when the Cougars opened spring practice. And it was in the mid-70s. Oh well, it should be at least 45 this week. Read on for some links.

NIT loss, the day after


COUGARS

We just made the C to D stroll at SeaTac, so we finally have time to check out the reports from last night. With the late starting time and the limited access, we don’t have our usual comments, but we do have some thoughts. Read on.

Slow start, Mills doom WSU

COUGARS

The Cougars’ season ended with a whimper, at least in the first half. They tried to bang their way back after halftime, but once again the hole they decided to dig was too deep to crawl all the way out of. Not with Patty Mills continually throwing dirt on them. WSU got within four with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left, but Mills made two free throws, Omar Samhan hit a 16-foot jumper and scored on a three-point play and St. Mary’s was moving on in the NIT. Read on for the unedited version of our story.

St. Mary’s Ends WSU’s NIT Hopes, 68-57

St. Mary’s Patrick Mills, center, dribbles past Washington State’s Taylor Rochestie, right, in the first half of an NIT college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Tuesday. ESPN game story & boxscore here. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WSU falls 68-57 to St. Mary’s

It was, after all, Patty Mills’ day. Even if he is from Australia, not Ireland, and wears the blue of St. Mary’s. The Gaels’ 6-foot guard, in only his fourth game back from a broken wrist that cost him five weeks – and may have cost St. Mary’s an NCAA berth - had his way with Washington State, scoring 27 points and blunting every Cougar second-half rally in the Gaels’ 68-57 NIT first-round victory at McKeon Pavilion. Mills wasn’t alone, as 6-7 forward Diamon Simpson added 18 points and 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. And 6-10 center Omar Samhan, saddled with foul trouble, still had 11 points – including five consecutive to halt the final Cougar rally, which had pulled them within four – and seven rebounds. Cougar seniors Aron Baynes (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Taylor Rochestie (14 points) played as if they didn’t want their WSU careers to end, especially in the second half. But by then it was too late. We’ll be back in about an hour or so. Until then …

St. Mary’s leads WSU 36-23 at half


COUGARS

Let’s see. I’ve got 10 second-chance points for St. Mary’s off seven offensive rebounds. Then there are the 11 points the Gaels have scored in transition. How about the 12 WSU turnovers? Add in the 17 points – and one Academy Award-winning flop – for Patty Mills, healthy again, and 12 from Diamon Simpson. A 13-point halftime deficit is the result as the Cougars are in midseason form. And by that, I mean the form they showed in their three-game Pac-10 losing streak. But in some ways this is worse. Because of the transition baskets. This is a team that prides itself in getting back, getting organized and wall off the basket in transition. The Cougars are not doing that tonight. And they’re getting out-toughed on the offensive glass in a game that takes a blood-drawing hack to get a foul underneath. The Gaels aren’t shooting well – 40 percent compared to the Cougs’ 43 – but they have nine more shots. Maybe a 13-point deficit isn’t all that bad. We’ll be back at the end. Until then …

The winner gets Davidson


COUGARS

Just a quick pregame post tonight. As you might know, Davidson, behind Stephen Curry’s 32 points, went to South Carolina and won, 70-63 tonight. If the Cougars win, our understanding is they would play Monday night at Davidson with, my guess is, a 4 p.m. PDT starting time. Read on for our thoughts on what the Cougars have to do to get there.

NIT first fiddle for WSU


COUGARS

With the NCAA Tournament hype in full blow-up mode – if WSU was in the tournament, we’d be joining in, I’m sure – there is little room left for the stepchild, the NIT. But we did find a couple things to pass on to you. By the way, they’ll be showing the game in Beasley Coliseum tonight, though there weren’t many students in town yesterday. Read on.

WSU’s Bennett a changed coach

COUGARS

This has been a season of change for Washington State. From the very first day of practice, Cougar fans knew they weren’t in Hawaii anymore Toto. Or Beloit. This WSU team was going to be different, and it has been. In a season of adjustments, the biggest might just be the changes that have overtaken the head coach. Tony Bennett has shown this year he’s willing to try new things, new plans, new ways of doing things if it might help his team succeed. Has it? To a degree. The Cougars are in the postseason after all. And probably won a couple games they shouldn’t have. After losing a couple. We decided to look at the change that’s manifested itself in Bennett this season, talking with him and others about it. Read on for the album version of the story. The 45 will appear in tomorrow’s S-R, and if you understand that, you’re too darn old.

Links aplenty about WSU, NIT and NCAA


COUGARS

Hope you have a lot of time this morning. We have a lot of links. Read on for stories ranging from St. Mary’s being hosed by the NCAA to Washington lamenting being forced to play a team WSU dominated. And, of course, items about the Cougars.

Tough test awaits WSU

COUGARS

The NIT didn’t do WSU any favors. The Cougars play on the road, which was probably expected. They have to play Tuesday night, which means a quick trip from Pullman. They face St. Mary’s, a team that when at full strength, might be in the top five on the West Coast – and the Gaels’ Patty Mills should be pretty healthy by Tuesday. Read on for the unedited version of our story that will appear in tomorrow’s S-R. We’ve also included some web-only notes.

WSU will travel to St. Mary’s in NIT


COUGARS • UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.

Washington State got its wish. The Cougars will take their 17-15 record into the NIT, facing St. Mary’s Tuesday night in Moraga, Calif., at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2. For more on the Gaels, read on. We’ll have more after we talk with WSU coach Tony Bennett this evening.

WSU will learn its fate today


COUGARS • UPDATED: 4:30 P.M.

 

As is evident in my story this morning, the College Basketball Invitational is more than willing to say yes to inferior teams if those inferior teams are willing to say yes to it. The 16-team tournament filled one of its four West regional teams last night with Oregon State, the Pac-10's eighth-place finisher and a school with a losing record (you can read about it here). The Beavers were willing to spend $75,000 or so to host a first-round game, so good for them. What does that mean for the Cougars? Read on.

 

• UPDATE: The folks at NIT-ology now have WSU in. And it's for the same reason we've mentioned: It would be strange to have six Pac-10 teams in the NCAA and none in the NIT. We'll see. And here is the Pontiac game-changing moment winner: Taylor Rochestie's game-winning shot.

Maybe it could have been WSU


COUGARS

The sixth seed in the Pac-10 Tournament had a well-sanded road to the NCAA Tournament. First up was a Cal team that really wanted to get back to Berkeley quickly, so it had more time to get ready for the NCAAs. The next night was UCLA, never as good playing a second game in a weekend. Finally, Arizona State was waiting in the final, not UW. And the Sun Devils were pretty satisfied with that, if you read the quotes from the players after Friday night’s win. The USC Trojans gained traction in each round and reached their hoped-for destination today, the automatic NCAA berth. Just think. If WSU had been able to defeat UW last Saturday, the sixth seed would have been next to the Cougars’ name. Oh well. Now it’s a waiting game. Will the NIT call tomorrow? USC’s win couldn’t have hurt. One less Pac-10 team to fight for a West Coast berth. On the link we have the unedited version of our story about that subject that will appear in the S-R tomorrow. Read on.

ASU, USC play for Pac-10 title


COUGARS

Ben Howland and his Bruins are 31-1 in the past four years in the first game of a Pac-10 weekend. They are Thursday warriors. Their Saturday record, however, is not as good. Not even close. So is it a big surprise the Bruins dominate WSU in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament, then turn around and lose to a USC team they should beat? If USC can defeat Arizona State today, the Trojans are headed to the NCAA Tournament, and help the Cougars in their NIT bid. Read on.

UCLA loss, the day after

COUGARS

Given the stakes last night, it is a little surprising how Washington State played in the first 10 minutes of the game. Even coach Tony Bennett admitted to being disappointed. And we have some thoughts on that, along with links and more comments from the principle players. Read on.

UCLA out-toughs WSU


COUGARS

Tony Bennett saw it in simple black and white. “I thought we got out-toughed today, I’ll be honest with you,” he said in the Staples Center hallway after UCLA’s 64-53 defeat of Washington State. “In a game we needed to play, how we needed to play didn’t show itself until the end.” The Cougars couldn’t hit a shot early, couldn’t handle UCLA’s pressure until it was too late and fell in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. Now they’ll wait until late Sunday to see who they might play in the NIT, or whatever tournament they end up in. Read on for the long version of our story.

WSU falls to UCLA, 64-53


COUGARS

The regular season is now officially over. It remains to be seen what will transpire the next few days. Will the Cougars get an NIT invite? Will they be headed to a different tournament? And one wonders how much the late rally will help their cause. Aron Baynes paced WSU with 22 points and eight rebounds. The Bruins had three players in double figures, with Darren Collison leading with 15. We’ll be back in about an hour.

WSU trails UCLA, 33-21 at half


COUGARS

Over the past few weeks, Washington State has avoided what has been its Achilles’ heel all season, the long scoring drought. Well, it came back with a vengeance in the first half Thursday. Over almost 7 minutes early on the Cougars missed 12 consecutive shots. And UCLA took advantage, turning many of the misses into fast-break baskets and a 5-4 deficit into a 25-5 lead. At first, the misses were the result of just missing open looks. As the streak lengthened, it was because UCLA was taking WSU out of its offense, more precisely, speeding up the WSU offense. The Cougars got into the get-it-back-quick mode and that hasn’t worked ever. Finally, the tide shifted, with UCLA’s subs getting too quick offensively and WSU patient enough to get good looks. Slowly, and I mean that literally, the Cougars clawed back into it. Twice, WSU was within 11 and had chances to cut it further. But it didn’t. Aron Baynes leads the Cougars with nine while Josh Shipp has eight for UCLA. We’ll be back.

Bruins and their challenges to WSU

COUGARS • UPDATED: 8:05 P.M.

Some questions for you. Is there a hotter team on the West Coast than Washington State. Is this a make-or-break game for said Cougars? What do they need to do to make a win happen? We’re going to attempt to answer the final question. Read on.

• UPDATE: The winner of the WSU/UCLA game will face USC in Friday’s late semifinal. The Trojans held off Cal, 79-75, behind the 21 points and 16 rebounds of Taj Gibson. After trailing by 18 in the first half, the Bears tied it at 75 with less than 20 seconds left. But Daniel Hackett was fouled with 3.2 seconds left and hit both free throws an the Trojans survived. USC had an almost-unbelievable 53-27 rebound edge.