WSU men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett has been named coach at the University of Virginia.
WSU director of athletics, confirmed Bennett’s decision Monday afternoon (see link
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“Dick and Tony Bennett have elevated the men’s basketball program at Washington State to an unprecedented level of success,” Sterk said. “We will begin a national search for a coach immediately with the goal of finding someone with the integrity, experience and values that Dick and Tony brought to the program.”
Sterk said Virginia asked for permission to speak with Bennett last Friday. Monday afternoon Bennett informed Sterk and WSU President Elson S. Floyd of his decision to accept the position at Virginia. Following those conversations, Bennett informed his players of his decision.
“He has done a fabulous job at WSU and we will greatly miss him. We wish him every success at UVA,” Floyd said.
Virginia recently fired coach Dave Leitao, according to a brief report in the Seattle Times.
Bennett recently completed his third season at WSU, where he built a reputation as one of the nation’s top young coaches. In Bennett’s first two seasons as coach, the Cougars reached the NCAA tournament for only the fifth and sixth times in school history. WSU lost in the first round of the NIT this season.
Bennett, 39, is the son of former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Dick Bennett. He played for his father at UWGB.
He has been described as “a young Mike Krzyzewski” and has previously turned down offers from LSU, Marquette and Indiana.
Having just finished his third year at WSU, Bennett owns a 68-30 (.694) overall record with the Cougars. This season’s team compiled a 16-13 overall record (8-9 in the Pac-10) and reached the NIT, where the Cougars were eliminated in the first round. His previous two teams both made it to the NCAA tournament, including a Sweet 16 finish in 2007-08.
That team compiled a 26-9 overall mark and finished 11-7 in the Pac-10, good for third place. Bennett’s 2006-07 Cougars went 26-8 and finished second in the conference with a 13-5 record and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Prior to taking over the Cougars, he served as an assistant coach in the program from 2003-06 under his father.
After a three-year stint as a guard for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, Bennett began his coaching career working as an assistant under his father at the University of Wisconsin. Upon his father’s retirement, he was retained by new Badgers coach Bo Ryan.
He remained on that staff until his father came out of retirement to take over the WSU program in 2003. He succeeded his father as head coach of the Cougars upon his father’s second retirement after the 2005-06 season.
Bennett was named the Associated Press college basketball coach of the year for the 2006-07 season.
A news conference is expected on Tuesday, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.