Tony Bennett Named Men's Basketball Coach

Feb. 28, 2006

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Tony Bennett has been named the Washington State head men's basketball coach, Cougar Director of Athletics Jim Sterk announced at a press conference, Tuesday.

Bennett becomes the 16th man to lead the Cougars. He succeeds his father Dick whose resignation takes effect at the end of the season. Washington State is 11-14, 4-12 Pacific-10 and has games remaining at Arizona (Thursday) and at Arizona State (Saturday) prior to the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles, March 8-12.

At WSU, the younger Bennett was instrumental in signing sophomores Josh Akognon, Robbie Cowgill, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver as well as junior transfer Ivory Clark. Currently, all but Low are ranked among Pacific-10 leaders in at least one category. In addition, Cowgill and Low were named Pacific-10 Freshman Honorable Mention in 2004-05.

Tony, who turns 37 June 1, spent the last three seasons at WSU, including last two as associate head coach. He came to Washington State from Wisconsin where he spent three seasons as an assistant coach for the Badgers. His responsibilities included recruiting, summer camps and player development. During the 2002-03 season, he helped guide the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

While at Wisconsin, he was part of the coaching staff that recruited Devin Harris, Kirk Penney, Brian Butch, and Alando Tucker. Harris, the 2004 Big 10 Player of the Year and first team All-Big 10 selection, was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, while Penney, an Olympian for New Zealand, earned first team All-Big 10 accolades in back-to-back seasons (2002-2003). Tucker, a 2002 Top 50, and Butch, a 2003 Top 20, were among the top national high school recruits.

Tony offers to the WSU program the kind of knowledge that only a former NBA player possesses having played three seasons (1992-95 for the Charlotte Hornets) before a foot injury ended his NBA career. Prior to being selected by the Hornets with the 35th pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, Tony enjoyed a storied career at UW-Green Bay where his father was the head coach.

He finished his collegiate career as the Mid-Continent Conference's all-time leader in points (2,285) and assists (601). He still ranks as the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point percentage (.497). He led the Phoenix to one NCAA Tournament berth and two appearances in the NIT and UWGB was 87-34 (.719) during his career.

A two-time MCC Player of the Year, Tony won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award given to the nation's most outstanding senior under six-feet tall. He also was the 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the Year. Tony started for Purdue's Gene Keady on the USA bronze medal-winning 1991 Pan-American Games team.

Bennett, who attended Green Bay's Preble High School and was named the state of Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball in 1988, served as the Wisconsin basketball team manager during the Final Four season of 1999-2000. He arrived in Madison following a stint in New Zealand, where he played and coached professionally.

Tony and his wife, Laurel, have two children, Anna and Eli.


Washington State Director of Athletics Jim Sterk(Opening Statement)'There were some significant achievements (under Dick Bennett). In the first year, we won for the first time in school history at UCLA. We broke losing streaks of 22 games to UCLA, six games to California and seven at USC. During the second season, we won at Arizona for the first time at Arizona since 1986. The victory also broke a 38-game losing streak to Arizona overall and ended a 48-game losing streak against top-25 teams. We broke losing streaks of 17 games to Stanford and eight games at Stanford. It was the first home-and-home sweep of the Cardinal in 12 years. Then, this season, we won at Washington for the first time in 12 years, the first road win in school history against a top-10 team. We broke a 34-game losing streak overall against top-10 teams. We beat Washington at home for the first home-and-home sweep of the Huskies in 12 years and the first top-25 team defeated at Friel Court in nine years.

'Obviously coach Bennett's resignation at the end of this year is not a surprise. As is typical of Dick, he has been open and honest about his intentions all year long. In fact, Tony and I know the tougher the game, the more he told us of his intentions. In fact, he would often tell perfect strangers who asked the question. So, it is no secret what we're doing here today.

'I do want to thank Dick for coming to the Palouse and Washington State. He brought `Bennett Ball' to the Palouse and respectability to the program. Dick is a very special person and a great coach. He is just 10 wins away from 500 career wins, but that does not drive him. He just thinks the time is right.

'I look forward to Dick closing out the year with some exciting games and hopefully extending his tenure as far as possible in the Pac-10 Tournament. When I recruited Dick out of retirement and asked him if he would come to WSU and rebuild one more program, I went to Madison to visit Dick and (wife) Anne. I also spent a couple of hours with Tony and (wife) Laurel. Immediately after leaving the Bennetts, I called (WSU) President (Dr. V. Lane) Rawlins and I was very, very excited. Not only did we find a hall of fame coach who would consider coming out of retirement to WSU, but he also would put together a staff that included a great younger Bennett that could potentially give us continuity and a bright, long-term future.

'The rest of the story is history. Dick decided to come and put together a staff than included Tony Bennett. Please know, there were no prenuptial agreements that Tony would be the next head coach. But after observing Tony work over the past few years, I knew we had a winner and president Rawlins agreed. In fact this past summer, Dick and I were discussing the upcoming season, and about his intentions and us officially notifying him and Tony of our intentions of elevating Tony, I told Dick that Tony could even be better than him. Of course, he loved that. Tony has great integrity, character and a huge drive for success. I am very, very excited about the future of Cougar basketball under Tony Bennett. With that, I'd like to introduce the 16th head coach at Washington State University, Tony Bennett.'

Tony Bennett(Opening Statement)'Thank you, Jim. First and foremost, I want to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity. I am so grateful to president Rawlins and our athletic director Jim Sterk for having the confidence in me to take over this program and entrusting me with the opportunity.

'I can't tell you how much of a privilege and a honor it is for me to follow in the footsteps of my father. Everywhere he has gone, there have been two things that have been consistent when he has rebuilt programs. People have always said they have been full of integrity and passion. There's no question that is what I want to carry on. When people look at our Cougar basketball program, they are going to say that is a program that is run with integrity and is full of passion.

'The foundation has been laid in my dad's three years here. It is up to me, my staff and the players to build on that foundation with quality. In his (Dick's) time here, he has a lot to be proud of, all the streaks that were broken and the genuine excitement he's brought back to the fans of Washington State. When he was hired, there was instant credibility and that was exciting for me. Not many sons get to experience with their father at my phase of life what I did and I treasure the three years that we were together.

'I received so many e-mails and calls from people saying my dad's legacy will last a long time. I want to carry that on with pride. I am excited. My wife and I have been here (in Pullman) three years. When you are, you realize there is so much faithfulness and so much loyalty among the fans of the Cougar Nation. There's nothing more than I'd like to give to these people than legitimate success. We've become competitive. The next step is the hardest. I'm very realistic about where our program is at. There's a ways to go, but there's something to build on. I think my dad was thinking about retiring last year, but he knew in this third season with the age of the players, mostly sophomores, freshmen and first-year players, there would be some growing pains. We have done some good things this year, but there have been growing pains. I am excited to finish this year, but for next year, to take these young men and hopefully continue to build on what is here. I am very thankful to have this opportunity.'

(On Timing of Dad's Retirement)'He has such a desire for quality basketball. He wanted to win very bad. He signed a five-year deal, but it was year to year. That is why he came out of retirement. Three years was what he wanted to try and get to and he got to that. I think he felt this was the right time.'

(On Playing and Coaching Career)'I think he (my dad) has always had confidence in me. I have some experience coaching overseas. I've had a wonderful playing career in the NBA and overseas. I've been under some great coaches. He (my dad) has been the biggest influence on me. But I've coached under Brad Soderberg, who is the head coach at Saint Louis, Bo Ryan, who is at Wisconsin. I played under Jud Heatchcote and Gene Keady is some of the summer USA Basketball things. In coming here and being named the associate head coach, it was an apprenticeship. He (my dad) knew I was ready.'

(On Potential Changes to the Program)'The continuity that is going to happen is going to help this program. I'm going to get questions about my style of play. That is for the offseason. We will see how these guys develop, our players as they get stronger, as they mature more. We will look at that and find ways to help this team improve. We found a formula that you almost have to walk before you can run to become competitive. This program wasn't competitive for a while and we've become that. Now we have to find ways to try and be successful. In the offseason, we will sit down with our staff and look at how our players develop and figure out ways to continue to improve.

(On Role for the rest of the season)'It will be the same. This is his (my dad's) team and his time. It will be special for me and pretty emotional. My role will be the same, to be a good assistant.'

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