IU COACHING CANDIDATE: Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett is only in his second year as a Division I head coach, but he's already compiled an impressive resume with a 47-13 record and a National Coach of the Year award. So what makes him a viable candidate? What makes him a long shot? HoosierNation.com has the answers...

For the second time in three years, the IU basketball program is about to embark on a search for a new head coach. HoosierNation.com will profile those candidates, including a look at what makes them a viable candidate, and why they are a long shot.

We start off with one of the most talked-about names - Tony Bennett.


The Bennett name is not new to IU or Big Ten circles. Dick Bennett was the long-time college coach who was best known for his six-year stint at Wisconsin, which included three NCAA tourney berths and a run to the 2000 Final Four.

Kathi Bennett, meanwhile, coached the Hoosier women's program from 2000-05, going 72-75 and leading the Hoosiers to the 2002 Big Ten Tournament title.

But the Bennett on the tip of everyone's tongue is Tony, and we're not talking about the one of the singing variety.

Instead, it's the 38-year-old, second-year Washington State coach who took over for his father two years ago and has breathed life back into the long-struggling Pac-10 program. Bennett was the consensus National Coach of the Year honors last season after guiding the Cougars to a 26-8 mark, a second-place finish in the Pac-10 and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tourney. He's shown last year was no fluke by guiding the Pullman, Wash., school to a 21-5 record this season and No. 17 ranking in the latest AP poll, giving him a sparkling 47-13 mark in his first 60 games as a Division I head coach.

While he's only been a head coach for two seasons, he's certainly proven himself as a very capable recruiter during his time as an assistant at both Wisconsin and Washington State. While coaching under his father at UW, Bennett played a big role in luring eventual stars such as Devin Harris, Kirk Penney and even Brian Butch to Madison. At Washington State, he was the point man in attracting standouts Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver to Pullman.

Bennett also has a short-but-flawless record of rules compliance, which figures to be an absolute must for the next Hoosier coach. While Bennett's track record is short, he's sure to get some credit for the work of his father, who was among the most highly-respected coaches in the profession.

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate:
He fits the mold of coaches that Rick Greenspan has brought to Bloomington. He's a young, energetic coach who has Midwestern ties, and he's proven himself to be a very good recruiter and a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. While he's enjoyed a great deal of success at Washington State, the Pac-10 school is never going to offer the opportunity for long-term, sustained success that a program like IU can. The state of Washington doesn't turn out the quantity of standouts that Indiana does, and the Cougars are fighting with in-state schools such as Washington and Gonzaga for those few standouts. The current WSU roster only has one player from the state, which shows Bennett and his staff have to be creative to find players that can make them competitive on a national level. This also might not be a bad time for Bennett to look for a better opportunity. Three of the team's starters are seniors, including Low and Weaver. Assuming he doesn't view Washington State as a place he wants to spend the majority of his career, his stock is probably never going to be higher – and there aren't going to be many better opportunities than IU.

What Makes Him a Longshot: Greenspan was in charge when Kathi Bennett resigned as the Hoosier women's coach, and that could be an issue that Greenspan will have to massage. While Kathi did resign in 2005, it was pretty clear that it wasn't without some prodding from Greenspan. Bennett also figures to view Wisconsin as his "dream job" within the conference, since his father coached there, he grew up in the state, and he's still utilized his recruiting contacts there to bring some players to Washington State (Weaver). Indiana also has its June appearance in front of the NCAA Infractions Committee to deal with as well. While the school's decision to severe ties with Kelvin Sampson will be looked upon favorably by the NCAA, it's still unclear how heavy-handed the governing body will be with the men's basketball program. Indiana will certainly fill its coaching vacancy long before the NCAA hands down its ruling, so any coach will be rolling the dice a little bit if he accepts the position.

HoosierNation.com's Take: There appears to be an awful lot that's right about a Tony Bennett-Indiana match. It's hard to imagine that Bennett views the long-struggling Cougar program as a last stop in his coaching journey, and the opportunities don't get much better than Indiana. Bennett also figures to be an affordable choice. He was the lowest paid coach in the Pac-10 last season at $350,000, and was then rewarded with a new seven-year contract after his Coach of the Year season that pays him around $800,000 annually. While that's a significant pay hike, it's well below the $1 million Sampson made this year, and about ½ of what Sampson was going to make if it wasn't for the forfeiture of the $500,000 raise he was due. It's hard to imagine that Washington State would restructure Bennett's contract for a second straight year to try to avoid losing him to another program. Bennett is a very good recruiter who is viewed as a players coach who also has many of the disciplinarian traits that his father always possessed. There isn't a blemish on his resume as far as the NCAA is concerned, which is an absolute must this time around. At this point in the process, Bennett has to be as attractive a candidate as there is out there.

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