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Howie Stalwick thinks you're a jilted lover

It takes a special kind of column to receive the Fire Joe Morgan treatment from yours truly.

This, my friends, is that kind of column.

I have no idea where it came from, as I've always been a fan of Howie Stalwick's reporting over at Cougfan. And yet, here it is. Take it away, Howie:

Commentary: Don't blame Bennett

for leaving

Ah, there is nothing quite like a lover scorned.

Tony Bennett, the subject of so much hero worship for three years at Washington State, has become the subject of much ridicule by that wonderfully wacky delegation known as Cougars fans.

Yes, those "wonderfully wacky" Cougar fans. We sure are silly, what with our reasonable expectations, support of our players and coaches, and game attendance that is borderline incredible given the population of the Pullman area.

I mean, c'mon - what right do we have to change stances on our coach when he completely changed stances on us over a weekend? That's pretty wacky.

"I thought Tony had integrity," whined one blogger. "I guess I was wrong."

Whined. Blogger. From his parents' basement, most certainly! High five!

You see, bloggers aren't highly-trained professionals getting a degree in, oh, let's say 37 days. Or people who are classically schooled in journalism and are helping future generations with their writing. Or people who just happen to be passionate about writing and have built up a base of readers.

Nope - bloggers are just whiny McWhinysons.

Stop wasting time on your computer and contribute to society, nerds!

"I feel betrayed," another wrote.

Shocking! How could someone ever feel betrayed when a coach insinuating he was going to stick around for a long time reversed field just a year later?

For shame.

"You make me sick," one fan informed Bennett.

A little overboard, sure. But can you blame someone in the heat of the moment for expressing what they think? Either Howie Stalwick discovered the internet yesterday, or he doesn't realize that people, mostly writing under monikers, express slightly stronger opinions online than in real life.

Wow. Good to know that blogger apparently maintains the belief that Bennett has time to read such nonsense while in the process of recruiting at his new school, hiring assistant coaches, selling and buying homes and moving his family from one side of the country to the other.

Yeah, taste it! Tony doesn't have time to read your thoughts! In between making his mind on a career-altering decision overnight, telling his boss (who thought he was staying put) at 1:45 the next afternoon, telling his team and his incoming signed recruits 15 minutes later, and then bolting out of town less than four hours later on a private jet, I'm shocked that Tony didn't take the time to dial up CougCenter and hear me call his decision rushed and idiotic.

Yep, you certainly hate to see an honest, devoted, hard-working young man move up in the world.

Do I detect sarcasm? Maybe we aren't that different after all.

And seriously: Honest? Devoted? Are you kidding? Did you listen to what Tony said after turning down the Indiana job? Here's a sampling (hat tip to Jim Moore):

"Jim Sterk and the administration gave me an unbelievable opportunity as an unproven Division I coach. They gave me that chance. I’m very grateful. The loyalty that’s been shown to me really matters to me."

"There are a lot of good things (here). You’ve got some great advantages being in Pullman and being at Washington State."

"But the plan is to be a part of building this class and be a part of Cougar basketball."

"Define bigger and better. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I love being a Coug."

Maybe you're right. Tony never once specifically said he's stick around Pullman after this year. But my goodness did he ever stretch the truth with his words. What happened to his whole "You're just their flavor of the month" rhetoric? Apparently Tony despised it right up until he became Virginia's flavor for March 2009.

Plus, you have to admire all those haters out there who undoubtedly would have turned down Virginia, a significant pay raise and the chance to work for a much better basketball school that draws far more fans to a much nicer arena in, arguably, the best college basketball conference in the country.

Um... ok? Isn't the point of being a Cougar fan that we love Pullman? That 11,000 seat Beasley Coliseum is just fine for a basketball game? Also, haven't we Cougar faithful been fighting for years to prove that the Pac-10 is just as good as any other major conference? Screw the ACC and the Big East. I guess we should've run up the score even higher on Notre Dame.

C'mon, people. Are you really so narrow minded that you think Pullman is the end all for each and every coach who ever yanks a crimson-colored shirt over his or her head?

C'mon. Why would you think someone that coaches your school should be expected to show at least a smidgen of the loyalty that you have for it?

And I guarantee the old Cougs, the ones have seen this happen all too many times, don't believe this is the stopping point for every coach. Heck, even Mike Price left, and he bled crimson.

Tony Bennett accomplished the impossible at Washington State, and this is how you react? Good grief. The man won 69 games in three years in the middle of nowhere. He convinced young men from Hawaii, Australia, Serbia, Florida and beyond that the best thing to do with four years of their lives was to live amidst wheat fields.

Wheat fields? When did Stalwick join the Dawg Pack?

And Bennett's feat is far from impossible. Kelvin Sampson had success here. George Raveling has success here. The Cougars made the first NCAA tournament championship game in 1941. Difficult? Absolutely. Impossible? Absolutely not.

And by the way, players come here to play basketball. Not bask in the glorious rolling hills of the Palouse.

Does Pullman have its charms? You bet. But if it's so incredibly charming, how come so few other coaches have been able to win there? And that includes Tony's father, Dick Bennett, a certified master at rebuilding basketball programs.

I'm sorry. I've torn apart this whole article, and I didn't even realize it was written by someone who didn't even pay attention to Cougar basketball during Dick Bennett's three years in Pullman. I thought this was written by someone with a vast knowledge of the situation at WSU.

Let me bring you up to speed: Dick Bennett took over a trainwreck of a program, and in his first year won seven conference games and would've beat the number one team in the country had a NBA-range three-point buzzer beater not gone down. He then went on to take an unheralded bunch of recruits, and teach them the values of discipline and defense. The day those recruits turned into upperclassmen, they brought about the two greatest seasons in modern Cougar basketball. Coincidence? Nah, it was allllllll Tony.

The elder Bennett couldn't win at Washington State, but his son did.

Dick helped lay the foundation for his son's success, but Tony was integrally involved from the start, and he was always the No. 1 recruiter.

But... I just explained why that's flawed logic! Here, you want to know something else? Dick Bennett claims that the third year after his first recruiting class is usually the year his teams break out. The third year with Derrick, Kyle and Robbie? Hmm, I seem to remember him handing the reigns off to his son in a rather timely manner.

That AP Coach of the Year award Tony won? Should've been split down the middle and given to both Tony and Dick, because they earned it together.

Tony, not Dick, was the best coach by the time the two arrived in Pullman.

Yes, that's why Jim Sterk hired Tony Bennett to be the head basketball coach in 2003, and not Dick.

Wait - what do you mean he hired Dick instead? So we wasted all those years with an inferior coach!?! Now I really am an angry blogger.

So … take a breath. Relax. Then look back on the past three years as something incredibly special that may never again be equaled at Washington State.

How in the world did this man win 26 games at WSU? Not once, but TWICE.

In consecutive years.


Twice in consecutive years? It's almost as if he had the same core of players in back-to-back seasons, and was therefore successful both years.

Oops, my bad - that's exactly what happened.

And how did he win all those games? Certainly not because of his father's help or a proven system for rebuilding.

They've played basketball at WSU since 1901, but only one man led the Cougars to the NCAA tournament two straight years.

Only one man led the Cougars to three consecutive postseason tournaments.

Meaningless. Sampson could've done it, but left. Raveling could've done it, but also left.

By the way, I think somewhere Lute Olson is chuckling at the idea that three straight postseason trips are a major accomplishment.

Only one man won 64 percent of his games. Well, good ol' John R. Bender won 80 percent, but he coached the Cougars for only one year early last century.

Get John R. Bender on the phone! Let's interview this guy post haste.

Clearly winning percentage is the way to go. And if we can't have Tony...

Hmm. Wonder what the bloggers had to say about Bender bolting town after going 12-3 in 1907-08? The story was probably splashed all over ESPN and radio talk shows.

Yeah, bloggers. Where you at?

We at CougCenter apologize for not covering this story, some 80 years or so before Al Gore connected two plastic tubes in his garage to form the very first internet.

It's a strange new sports world we live in, but there's still room for common sense.

Yep - a world where papers struggle because their sportswriters keep finding ways to antagonize the very people that read them. Actually, craigslist has more to do with the tragic fall of newspapers, but that's a different topic for a different day.

Tony Bennett, who could have left WSU after each of his first two years, finally gave in to an offer that will provide him and his family with financial security for a lifetime. He will coach at a school with far more money, better facilities and much easier access to blue-chip recruits.

I'm pretty sure $1 million plus a year through 2013 gives you financial security for a lifetime. But I'd love to find out! I wonder if any Virginia blogs are hiring...

Plus, I'm getting pretty sick of this notion that anyone who calls out a coach leaving for more money is a hypocrite. There's a big difference between your average Joe going from a $50,000 a year job to a $100,000 a year one, and a coach going from 1 mil to 1.7. Plus, you know, all we did in Pullman was double Tony's salary plus give him incentives.

And yes, we get it. Virginia's a more attractive job. Except the fans already hate your guts, the blue-chip recruits are already going to Duke and UNC, and Virginia's universities are facing budget cuts similar to those in Washington.

Be happy for the man. He did the right thing for Tony Bennett and his family. Anything less would have been horribly wrong, because Washington State is only a school, and the Cougars are only a team.

And yet, Tony passed on a job that would've benefited his family much more financially - Indiana. And are you saying it would've been horribly wrong for him to pass on this job? That means 2008 Tony Bennett did the wrong thing for himself by staying, and 2009 Tony Bennett, who took a less prestigious job, is absolutely in the right?

Family is everything.

Which is why Tony Bennett made his kids say goodbye to their friends in Pullman, where they've grown up for the past six years, so he could catch the six o'clock private jet to Charlottesville.

It's also why he, without warning, shocked the players that had committed to playing for him in a brief team meeting. Even after telling Marcus Capers' mother that he'd stick around. But Capers' Mom isn't a member of Tony's family - so she doesn't count.

Did we overreact Monday? Yes. Do we have a right to? Absolutely. Tony feigned commitment to Pullman, and we were gullible enough to believe him. Our fault, but we still have the right to be a little angry.

And one thing's for sure - Tony Bennett is no longer a member of the Cougar family.