Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tony Bennett is on the clock

Basketball posts are what happen when your team doesn't have a first round draft pick and they don't play a meaningful game for another five months. Relax, it'll be over soon.

As an IU fan I've been following their search for a head coach pretty closely. One thing you need to understand: IU does not have any money. Most major programs get the majority of their revenue from their football programs. See? I mentioned football. Money is the big reason why we are seeing the success of schools like Florida and Texas who aren't traditional basketball powers. I don't need to tell you that Indiana doesn't squeeze much green from its football program. To compound the issue they are still paying considerable sums to former coaches like Gerry Dinardo, Mike Davis, and Kelvin Sampson. Also they spent two million dollars on a new scoreboard for Assembly Hall.

The cash crunch pretty much eliminates the dream candidates like Bruce Pearl, John Calipari, and Rick Pitino. Dream is the operative word. This leaves the up and comers like Tony Bennett of Wazzu, Sean Miller of Xavier, Jamie Dixon of Pitt, and several others. Gary Parrish of CBS is reporting that Indiana has told Bennett the job is his if he can make up his mind within 24 hours.
Don't know much about Tony Bennett? He's the the son of former (Final Four in 2000) Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett and brother of former Indiana Women's coach Kathi Bennett. He starred at Wisconsin Green Bay as a guard and holds the NCAA record as the most accurate three-point shooter with a .497 percentage. He was an assistant under his dad for four years at Washington State. After his father's retirement, Tony took over the reins and has led the Cougars to back to back tournament appearances. The Cougars were knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen this year by UNC.

This doesn't sound like much of a resume unless you know a little about the feat that the Bennetts have pulled off at Washington State. WSU is arguably the most remote Division I program in the nation. It is nestled against Idaho on the eastern border of Washington. The Cougars are historically one of the worst basketball programs in DI. Before Tony Bennett, Wazzu had been to the NCAA tournament just four times in its less-than-storied history (1941, 1980, 1983, 1994).

The knocks on Bennett are obvious. He's only 38 years old and has been a head coach for just two years. He coaches a slow-tempo style that would fit in all too well in the Big Ten. The upside is that he has successfully recruited in about the most difficult place imaginable. His starting five is from Wisconsin, Hawaii, a transfer from Tulane, Australia, and Texas. He has players contributing off the bench from Serbia and Colorado.

You can't blame Indiana fans for expecting AD Rick Greenspan to screw up this hire. The goodwill he built up by the fantastic hiring of Terry Hoeppner has since been diminished by hiring of Bill "Division III" Lynch. The ugly end to the Kelvin Sampson era should have spelled the end to Greenspan's time in Bloomington. But here we are again. The program has been to one Sweet Sixteen in 14 years, but flirted with relevance this year. A great hire could save Indiana Basketball, but it feels as if one more bad decision could doom it.

UPDATE: Tony Bennett has turned down the Indiana job to stay at Washington "effing" State. Unbelievable how far the the Indiana program has fallen in the past fifteen years. To paraphrase Jackie Chiles: This is the most public yet of Indiana's many humiliations. I'm shocked, angry, and depressed.

DZ COMMENTS: It could be worse. We could be dialing up Zeke on the phone.
DZ: Just a note that the Harrison article is finished.


Bob M. said...

I strongly suspect that "Without making any gratuitous comments about cocaine and whores let's look at the numbers" was a "a gratuitous comment about cocaine and whores."
I also strongly suspect that was the point.
Nicely done article, BTW.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Bennett may have had reservations due to perceived shoddy treatment to his sister as former women's coach at IU. I'm always amazed at the shortsightedness of people when considering the IU job. Was Kentucky in worse shape than IU when Pitino took over? I'd say yes. But he was the right guy to right the ship and it took only 2 years to do so. They were a force thereafter. Is there more fertile ground to find players than this state? Heck just in Indy? IU needs to find someone to fence in the statewide talent and they'll be good to go. Just have a successful season undermanned the first year (to prove coaching chops) recruit the top instate talent and by yr. 3 the franchise is back on track.