BLOOMINGTON – So while we wait to hear an answer from Tony Bennett (or to find out if a question has even been asked), some random thoughts…
- Washington State Athletic Director Tim Sterk issued the following release Saturday night about Bennett, who many think has an offer (in some form) from IU to be its next basketball coach:
"Regarding the status of Tony Bennett, I have not been contacted by any other university asking for permission to speak with Tony. This past week we completed another tremendous basketball season, capped by a ‘Sweet 16' appearance, and we are excited to have Tony Bennett as our basketball coach and about the future of our program."
Some have taken that as evidence that the various reports about an IU offer are erroneous. While that's possible, here's another scenario to consider.
Sterk might have released that statement to voice some frustration over IU's handling of its pursuit of Bennett. It is common practice for athletic directors and/or search committees to ask for permission from a coach's current employer before engaging in any dialogue, and it's obvious IU hasn't done that with Washington State.
If there has been indirect contact – which most believe has occurred - IU's defense would be that it's been through third-party channels, and no one with the university has spoken directly with Bennett. That could get them past any sort of contractual obligations to alert Sterk to their initial inquiries about Bennett's interest.
- for anyone who thinks Tony Bennett isn't interested in the Indiana job, consider the fact that he's had at least three opportunities to say he wasn't interested.
The first chance came in late February when he was first asked about the opening.
"I'm not going to comment on anything that doesn't pertain to our season," Bennett said Feb. 22. "That's all you're going to get out of me."
His next opportunity came when his Washington State team ended its season with a 68-47 loss to North Carolina in the regional semifinals Thursday night. Bennett was again asked about the IU speculation.
"Right now, I'm the coach at Washington State," Bennett said. "I want to talk about the seniors."
His third opportunity came Saturday, when Washington State's AD released his statement about no one asking for permission to talk to his head coach. Don't you think the Cougars' AD – who said he talked to Bennett Sunday - would have liked to have included a quote from Bennett denying any interest in the IU vacancy? Don't you think he would have asked Bennett if he wanted to re-affirm his commitment to the Pullman, Wash., school?
- UNLV Coach Lon Kruger is the latest name to be lofted in from left field, this time courtesy FoxSports' Jeff Goodman. The 56-year-old Kruger has compiled a 409-275 record in 22 seasons, which includes stops at Pan-American (1983-86), Kansas State (1987-90), Florida (1991-96), Illinois (1997-00) and UNLV (2005-present). Kruger also had an unsuccessful stint in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks from 2001-2003, going 69-122 in two-plus seasons before being dismissed midway through his third season.
Kruger makes a lot of sense IF IU officials have once again limited themselves to "Final Four caliber" coaches. He guided Florida to the national semifinals in 1994, and been to the NCAA tourney 13 times. Those trips have resulted in only three Sweet 16 or better runs (1988 with Kansas State, 1994 with Florida, 2007 with UNLV) but he's had success during each stop. UNLV is 57-15 in the last two years combined.
He was rumored as a possibility last spring at Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota last year and none of those came to fruition. That would seemingly make him a long shot to land in Bloomington.
DECKER: So While We Wait...
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