Congratulations to former Washington State basketball coach Tony Bennett for providing our WTF Moment of the Year. After years of deceiving everyone with his “I love Pullman” talk, Bennett just royally betrayed all of Cougar nation by bolting for the head coaching vacancy at the University of Virginia. I know. I completely forgot that UVA existed, too.
To call this move a head-scratcher would be a complete understatement. First off, Bennett has a pretty good thing going at WSU, where the expectations are low, and he can mask his coaching and recruiting deficiencies by playing hard-nosed defense and flying under the radar. Not so at Virginia, where the unassuming Wisconsin boy will be thrust into the spotlight and expected to turn a completely irrelevant Cavalier program into a contending force in the ACC.
Second, if Bennett was going to leave, why didn’t he do so last year? One would have to assume that the coaching offers headed his way were better a year ago, with his Cougar ballclub coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Plus, the departures of nearly all his key players from a year ago had to make him realize that the ’08-’09 edition of Cougar basketball wouldn’t be so hot. And that’s exactly how things ended up, culminating in a first-round exit in the NIT.
Third, what about the loyalty factor? Throughout his tenure at WSU, Bennett has professed his love for the city of Pullman and his employer repeatedly. He quickly became the Golden Boy of Washington State basketball, and has now gone on to break everyone’s hearts. One can’t expect him to stay put at Virginia for very long, especially if he can replicate the immediate success he pieced together at Washington State. Bennett may very well be the Dennis Erickson of the hardwood.
As a Husky fan, even I realize that this is the ultimate betrayal. The news that has come crashing down on Coug fans is probably not unlike the news that rattled Sonics fans the day we found out our team was leaving town. It’s an absolute shock to find out that Tony Bennett is departing Pullman. From that perspective, I’m sorry.
As a rival, however, I’m glad to see Bennett go. He became a thorn in the side of Husky Nation and won’t plague us anymore. Plus, for all those Cougar fans who adamantly defended the loyalty of their coach, it’s nice to say, “We told you so.” You had to understand that this man was living in Pullman, of all places, and one can only do that for so long before throwing in the towel (even most Cougs, I would imagine, couldn’t do it for much longer than the required four years).
In the end, all you can do is shake your head. Just a strange, strange move by an odd little man. Maybe they have a shop that sells ties near the Virginia campus….