Left His Heart in Pullman

March 31, 2008 – 9:42 am by Matthew Glenesk

Since when does a second-year head coach plying his trade in the basketball equivalent of a “one stoplight town” of Pullman, Wash., have the nerve to turn down one of college basketball’s peach posts?

Tony Bennett did just that telling Indiana University, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Bennett, 38, is one of the hottest young coaching commodities in the nation after leading previously dormant Washington State to the Sweet Sixteen and back-to-back 20-win seasons.

Bennett made sense.

He has a nice blend of hard-nosed doggedness and media swaying savvy, that is needed in the fishbowl that has always been Bloomington, Ind.

He seemingly runs a clean program, which obviously might be a prerequisite this time around, but who knows.

And he has Midwest ties. He played for his dad, Dick, at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and was an assistant coach for his pops at both Wisconsin and Wazzou. Bennett’s sister, Kathi, coached the Hoosiers’ women’s program before she was forced out by current ubervillian, IU athletics director Rick Greenspan.

Bennett told the The Spokesman-Review he talked with IU officials but took a pass.

Basically, “I see those five national championship banners, those Big Ten championships and countless All-Americans. That’s the past, ancient history. One Final Four since 1993! And you’re supposed to be some national power? What happens when I take this job and the NCAA does more than just slap us on the wrist? Two best players are off to the NBA, others are plotting their escape. Oh and I’ll be the fourth coach in four years. Again, thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to stay in Pullman, at least until your conference rival Wisconsin needs me to succeed Bo Ryan. PEACE!”

Bennett’s bitch slap is not good for IU for a number of reasons, but first it’s a public slight by a coach that should be salivating at a job like this, emphasis on word should.

But it’s especially troubling for Hoosier fans because it looks like Bennett was undeniably IU’s No. 1 target. That means the acid-trip like dreams of Rick Pitino, Bruce Pearl, John Calipari and Thad Matta by the Hoosiers fan base were just that – dreams. You might as well strike Xavier’s Sean Miller off your list too seeing as IU was ready to offer the job to Bennett while Miller had his Musketeers still playing in the Elite Eight.

Where do the Hoosiers turn to now? It seems no one (and that’s including Isiah, say it ain’t so Zeke) wants to coach for an aging program, under the microscope and for a lame duck athletics director?

Where only three days ago, Hoosiers fans were tossing names of the profession’s elite around, now names like Kruger, Brownell and Montgomery have taken their place.

Not quite as sexy as Pitino or Pearl.

Lon Kruger has done a good job at UNLV, has Big Ten experience at Illinois and has Final Four experience with Florida. However, Kruger flamed out in the NBA between stints at Illinois and UNLV.

Let’s be serious, though. Sure, 57 wins in the past two years is nice, but while at Illinois, Kruger never led the Illini past the second round in the NCAA Tournament and he followed up a conference championship in 1998 with a last place finish a year later. That’s a bit worrisome. No thanks, plus I can’t hang with his lisping, slurping side-mouth talking.

If IU hires Mike Montgomery, look for the former Stanford and Golden State coach to bring in former Hoosier legend Keith Smart in as an assistant coach . Smart, who was on Montgomery’s staff at Golden State, will be groomed as Montgomery’s successor. Smart has forever been given a seat at “Big Boys Table” by IU fans for no reason bigger than this.

Wright State coach Brad Brownell is an intriguing option. He’s young, from Indiana (Evansville), has Bobby Knight ties through Jim Crews, he runs the motion offense much beloved by the IU faithful and is well liked by the state’s high school coaches.

Brownell has won big, whether at UNC-Wilmington or Wright State.

Let me repeat that: Brownell has won big, whether at UNC-Wilmington or Wright State.

Enough said.

So where does IU go from here? No one knows. Kelvin Sampson was a left field hire. And it’s said the school wants a coach in place by the Final Four. It’s going to be a busy week in Bloomington. So let me help the 10-person, Blue Ribbon Search Committee entrusted with finding a new coach.

Scratch off these names: Bennett, Pearl, Pitino, Calipari, Barnes, Sean Miller, Matta, Jamie Dixon, Knight, Alford, Isiah Thomas, Tom Izzo, Pete Bell, Norman Dale, John Mellencamp and Kermit the Frog.

Now, get to work.

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  1. 6 Responses to “Left His Heart in Pullman”

  2. I believe this is wonderful. He’s got a great team in the Pac-10. Why should he scamper away just because he can?

    By NFL Adam on Mar 31, 2008

  3. I’m just glad baseball season is finally here so I can forget about IU basketball for a bit. I may not even get tickets next year.

    By Britt on Mar 31, 2008

  4. You can have Carmody! Please! Take him! I beg you!

    By Zach on Mar 31, 2008

  5. Bennett’s sister left IU on bad terms. It isn’t a big surprise that he wouldn’t be interested in the IU position.

    I think it has more to do with the bad relationship IU had with his sister than it does with their basketball program.

    By Anonymous on Apr 1, 2008

  6. Its gonna be Lavin. Another left field hire.

    By Aaron on Apr 1, 2008

  7. Lavin would be a lot better hire than a lot of the other names I’ve heard bantered about.

    I think the combination of Greenspan pushing Bennett’s sister out the door as well as Dick Bennett being friends with Bob Knight probably doomed this from the start.

    By the incomparable mjenks on Apr 1, 2008

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