I don't like being coy, but working in a competitive arena, didn't feel like I could say much more this morning. Late last night I was able to talk with former Washington State University basketball coach Tony Bennett about his decision to leave the Palouse and head to Virginia. I've put together a story based on his answers to our questions. I also have some more SportsLink-only material. Read on.
• The story itself can be found here. I hope it answers your questions, though I'm sure I'm not capable of anticipating everyone's desires and culling them down into five or six questions to ask a guy at 1 a.m. his time. I talked with Laurel Bennett on Monday after finding about Tony Bennett's decision and he sent me a text later explaining why he couldn't talk until after his UVa press conference. He called me yesterday afternoon while I was on the phone with another source, and by the time I got to the call, it had gone to voice mail. Bennett took a long recruiting trip last night but called me again after he got back to Charlottesville. The ensuing interview is the basis for our story.
Some have asked why no one had an inkling this courtship was going on. You have to understand Bennett had been out of town a lot recently on recruiting trips so his absence from the office Friday was not anything out of the ordinary. Actually, I was in one of the assistant's offices for quite a while, making plans to put together a schedule story. I can assure you the decision Monday surprised them nearly as much as it surprised you. As for another question about the budget issues, which Jim Sterk has roundly criticized as inaccurate, I can only say the sources (and there was more than one) who passed on that information believed it to be true. They may not have been aware that any misgivings had already been alleviated by the athletic administration. As for the assistants, Bennett said he's offered Ron Sanchez a job, he's offered one to operations assistant Ronnie Wideman and, if Ben Johnson had been interested, there was a spot for him at Virginia as well, but Johnson decided to go in another direction. Other positions in Virginia were either spoken for or needed to be filled with people who had connections in the ACC and the area. Finally, some people are blaming the decision on Laurel Bennett. As far as I know, nothing could be further than the truth. The Bennetts make decisions together, like any married couple, but leaving Pullman may have been even a harder decision on Laurel. No one forgets the places your kids are born and where they spend the first years of their lives.
• That's it for now. But there is still more coming today, what with football practice this afternoon. Until then …