1. Tony Bennett is not the man we thought he was. I'm stunned that a man I had so much respect for could turn from hero to villain in 24 hours. But that's what happened with Tony Bennett - telling Sterk Sunday morning his lean was towards Pullman, and throwing it away the next afternoon. I've spent the last day and a half trying to figure out the reasoning. Was it money? Facilities? Travel? The God awful winters we've had the last two years in Pullman? Was it that you realized this would be your last chance for quite some time to jump ship and coach a "big time" program? Did you feel six years was more than enough investment in Pullman? Was it all of the above?
Ultimately, the reason doesn't matter. This is the reality now. It's hard not to throw up in your mouth a little when you hear Tony wax poetic about the family atmosphere of Pullman, and how the people here were just so great. The people here gave you a chance and uncompromising support. Did you return the favor?
2. College coaches exist in a different world than the rest of us. Fans see the world through different glasses. We don't make $1 million plus a year. We aren't surrounded by yes men and boosters catering to our every need. We aren't being tracked down by the media, by crazed followers, having our every decision micro-analyzed by some idiot bloggers (hey, that's us!). Bennett, Calipari, Few... these folks exist in another stratosphere and we'll never know what it's like. That's why we can't truly know what made this decision happen.
The best example is the fact that Tony obviously has no clue what the UVA faithful think of him. A mediocre Pac-10 coach, an underwhelming recruiter, another swing and a miss for the Cavaliers' AD. Virginia just fired a pretty decent coach - how many rebuilding seasons do you think they are going to put up with, Tony?
3. Universities need to wake up to the realities of the coaching carousel. You think our $400,000 buyout was meager? How about the $200,000 Kentucky now owes Memphis for John Calipari. That's pocket change for the big boys. And it makes all these scenarios way too easy to create.
4. We all fell for it. If you get a chance to read Jim Moore's excellent column on Cougfan, go for it. Let's face it, all of us, from the most diehard Cougar fan to the casual Wazzu follower bought into Tony's ideals. And can you blame us after last year? Tony turned down far more money and prestige. It was so easy to fall into the "Bennett is motivated by things other than money," trap. And yet in we fell.
The truth is I now believe Bennett was closer to leaving last year than we thought. The only job he said he thought about, LSU, was filled by quite frankly a more qualified coach in Trent Johnson. Indiana, meanwhile, was a struggling program in a high-stress culture that the Bennetts knew all too well. The other jobs - the Oklahoma States, etc. - probably didn't do enough to pique Bennett's interest. At least not the shiny campus tour.
5. Craig Littlepage hurt fans of two programs. Without the Virginia athletic director, and cohort Jon Oliver, the events of the last few days never happen. Yes, Bennett receives equal blame for taking the offer, but Virginia appeared to be the only one out on the table. And what a bold offer it is, considering the mood of the Cavalier faithful.
And excuse me for scoffing at Virginia's "recruitment" of Tony. Rumor has it Bennett was the third choice for the job behind Oklahoma's Jeff Caple and Minnesota's Tubby Smith. Yet I'm sure they rolled out the red carpet anyway, and Tony was blown away by the historic campus, the athletic facilities, and the proximity to his old stomping grounds in Charlotte. As I said, it's so easy to leave when you're oblivious to the reality.
6. Cougar fans are awesome. Thank you all for stopping by CougCenter in record numbers yesterday, and being a critical part of the healing process all over the web. I had a brief moment where I thought, "why do I still follow college sports when it does nothing for me in return?" The fact is I don't follow it for the coaches, or the individual players, or anything else that's temporary. I follow it because I'm a Coug. Always have been, always will be one. Knowing there's a few thousand others like me out there is an awesome thing. And, best of all, we know how to keep it in perspective. Which brings me to my next point...
7. This too shall pass. At the end of the day, this is nothing more than a college coaching change. We only get angry because we became attached to our mental image of Bennett - an image that is all but torn to shreds now. We'll get over it, and we'll probably even thank Tony somewhere down the line. Sure, the next coach could sink us down to the depths of the conference. But he could also be the one that sustains the success here, and perhaps even takes us farther. Maybe I'm an idiot for saying this, but perhaps the next one will stick around. I just won't believe it until he retires.
8. The real heroes of the Bennett era were Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie. Those three players, and their teammates who stayed committed to WSU, are the people we should really be thanking for last six years. And this really only goes to elevate Dick Bennett's status here, as the true architect of our Sweet Sixteen team. It will be interesting to see how Tony handles things without the assist from his father. And in 20 years, I'll remember Weaver, Low and Rochestie more fondly than anyone else from this era. (OK - probably Dick Bennett, too).
9. Tony, if nothing else, made this job a lot more attractive than it was. Whether it's Ken Bone, Bill Grier, Ray Giacoletti, Randy Bennett, or the field, the WSU job is not the career jinx it once was. Tony Bennett proved you could, in fact, have success here. For that alone I have to temporarily bury the hatchet and thank him.
10. Screw Tony, I love where we're at. You can take the coach out of Pullman, but you can't take away what makes Pullman special. Those people, the ones that stand in line, call us family, or say "Go Cougs" to us even though they have no idea who we are, aren't going anywhere. We've been through this so many times before, and odds are we'll go through it again. But so what? No one's stopping us from being Cougars.
And really, I have everything that's important to me right here. Ten years from now I'll look back, and not even care one bit that some passerby basketball coach thought that Virginia was a better career option than Washington State.