Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Is Tony Bennett Some Sort of Basketball Saint?

Official word came from Wazzu yesterday afternoon that Tony Bennett will be back for 2008-09.

I'll be honest--I'm completely shocked. I thought for sure Bennett was as gone as the Sonics. A young coach with a senior-laden team, he surely saw that this was his best chance to grab a high-profile job. But he didn't take it. Why?

Both Vince Grippi of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Jeff Nusser over at WSU Hoops say it's because Bennett is different.

Writes Grippi: "[National media people] think Bennett is like everyone else, ready to jump at a 'better job' that offers more money and a chance to win the national championship.They don't get a guy who thinks about his family first, second, third, ad infinitum."

And Nusser: "Tony Bennett is different from other coaches, ...his priorities aren’t the same as other coaches, and ... this constant media speculation is born out of most reporters’ complete inability to comprehend that."

Now I'm not the national media, but, frankly, I don't believe it either. Maybe I'm just pessimistic about human nature, but when you tell me someone is "different", it's tough for me to take. The list of coaches, politicians, preachers, etc, etc, etc, who've professed one thing and done the complete opposite when the pressure got too great is beyond my ability to enumerate.

Then again, such a coach isn't unprecedented. Maybe Bennett is the college version of Terry Ennis.

Ennis was a legendary local high school football coach with a career record of 287-87. Colleges offered him positions as an assistant, but he preferred the simple rewards of coaching high school kids. Upon Ennis' death, Dennis Erickson, the poster boy for striving college coaches, said: "He was smarter than the rest of us."

I'm not sure Dennis Erickson really believes that, but maybe part of him does. Part of Dennis Erickson surely thinks that all of the drama he's faced as coach of Idaho, and Wazzu, and Miami, and Seattle, and San Francisco, and Idaho again, and Arizona State...maybe it wasn't worth it, maybe if he'd stayed in one place he'd have been happier.

And maybe Bennett--the son of a coach himself--has the awareness to recognize that.

All that said, Tony Bennett made no definitive statement about his future at the school.

This stands in stark contrast to UW coach Lorenzo Romar. Here's what Romar said when he signed his most recent extension:

"When I took this job, I made it very clear that the University of Washington is the place where I wanted to be and that I was not interested in being anywhere else. I continue to make that very clear."

Bennett said only that he "[looks] forward to building for the future," and that "Washington State University is a special place."

If a person you were dating told you that they "looked forward to the future" and that you were "special," you wouldn't exactly start making wedding plans.

Though, to be fair, Romar made his comments after getting a massive contract extension. Bennett's yet to negotiate such an extension, maybe he make he'll be ready to drop to one knee then.

If he doesn't, no matter how much the local reporters claim Bennett's different, Coug fans will remain in this odd place that fans of lesser programs (no offense) must inhabit, where you want the team to do well, but know that the better you do, the more likely it is that the coach will leave. (See UW during the Bob Bender years).

Then again, if Bennett makes that lifetime commitment, he can turn Wazzu into a powerhouse that never again needs to wonder if they'll lose their coach. And he'll probably be happier for it.

You can buy that Tony Bennett rookie card for five cents at


Nuss said...

I know saying Tony Bennett is "different" probably comes off sounding a little trite, but it's not like this assessment that Tony is "different" was just made up in the last couple of weeks now that we know for sure that he's staying. I've been saying it for a year, both here (after last season) and throughout the season here and here. And Grippi had been talking Coug fans down off the ledge all season, too.

red said...

thank you