Tony Bennett will be the new Virginia men’s basketball coach according to sources close to ESPN. After coaching at Washington State University for almost 10 years, the former college basketball stand-out will be heading to the University of Virginia. For the past three seasons, Tony Bennett has been serving as the head coach of the Washington State Cougars, after taking over duties for his father after several seasons as an assistant. After bringing success to the Washington State program, Bennett heads to a less successful Virginia squad.
Over the past three seasons, Coach Tony Bennett has led the Cougars to a 68-30 record with three post season tournaments. He took the Cougars to the second round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, the sweet 16 of the 2008 NCAA tournament, and a birth in the 2009 NIT tournament. He helped lead the Cougars to another successful season this year, but due to too much youth on the team, the Cougars struggled a little bit. It was widely believed though, that the Cougars would come back even stronger next season.
The move from Washington State University clear across the country is a bit of a surprise to fans and players alike, and specifically because it is to the University of Virginia. Virginia hasn’t had a good couple of years, and finished last season with a record of 10-18. It was thought that Tony Bennett would stick around at WSU, after turning down suitors that included LSU, Marquette, and Indiana just to name a few. After bringing back an air of respectability to what had been one of the door-mats in the Pac-10 conference, WSU basketball had now been at one of its peaks.
This move by Tony Bennett is definitely going to be seen as a negative one, and many fans already feel as though they have been stabbed in the back. Underneath all of the posturing though, Washington State University has never really been a true basketball school, instead pouring all of its money into the football team. In recent years though, the basketball team has started picking up more fans, and most importantly more wins. Though the team appeared to still be improving, it seems as though Tony Bennett had his eye on trying out a stint in the ACC instead. The Pac-10 just lost a great coach, and if the rumors of his departure are correct, WSU is going to be hurting to find a new men’s basketball coach.
The University of Virginia should consider themselves very lucky, because they just stole one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball, and a man who helped lead the Cougars to becoming the best defensive team in the nation last year.