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A look behind Tony Bennett’s departure from WSU

Excellent article in the Daily Press provides illuminating details

ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Hampton Roads Daily Press had a terrific article about the courting of Tony Bennett that I would recommend all Coug fans reading. I know it makes me feel a lot better about what happened. This sheds great light on a process that was shrouded in mystery at the time. Here are some of the highlights of the informative piece by David Teel.

-Former Portland State head coach Ritchie McKay was a key figure in Tony Bennett’s entire career. He worked for former WSU AD Jim Sterk in Portland. Dick Bennett was McKay’s mentor whom he met visiting his brother, former UW wide receiver Orlando McKay, while he was playing at Green Bay. Later the then-New Mexico State head coach planted the idea in Sterk’s mind to hire father and son in a package deal.

Sterk had since become Washington State’s athletic director, and McKay was the University of New Mexico’s head coach. Reeling from seven consecutive losing seasons, Washington State was searching for a new big whistle, and McKay had an idea.

Hire Dick Bennett and designate Tony Bennett as his successor. Soon thereafter, Sterk flew to Wisconsin and met with the Bennetts.

-Mckay also was a key figure in Tony going to UVA. Virginia Assistant AD Jon Oliver scouted McKay for the head coaching position post-Kevin Eastman when he was an associate AD at WSU. McKay reached out to Oliver as they were conducting their coaching search to recommend Tony.

Oliver: “I said, ‘Ritchie, you won’t believe this. I’m sitting here right now trying to figure out how to approach Tony.’ I said, ‘Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to hang up the phone, I want you to call Tony right now and ask him if he’s willing to talk to us. He needs to ask (his athletic director) for permission. … But tomorrow morning I’ll have a plane on the tarmac. We’ll have him back the next day, and no one will ever know he’s gone.’”

-This was a very agonizing decision for Tony and his family as he was very happy at WSU.

“It was one of those situations where you start thinking about it, and I had a really good team coming back with Klay Thompson. I really liked that team, and that’s such a hard thing. That’s where I took another day and I told Laurel I think it’s best that we just stay.”

-His wife told him to take another 24 hours and that’s when Tony made his decision.

As you can see there are many juicy details in this story, which all Cougar fans should read ASAP.



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Tony Bennett followed providential path to U.Va. - Daily Press
In nine years, Tony Bennett has developed Virginia into an elite college basketball program. And to think, he almost declined the job.