Seen & Heard 3/20

AS I WATCHED DERRICK LOW can that three-pointer Saturday to send the Cougar-Vandy game into a second overtime, one thought rang out: Is it something they put in the water in Honolulu? First there was Jason Gesser, the Hurlin' Hawaiian. Now there's Low, the Hana Hammer. They're both unflappable, gritty -- and likely to be two of the most memorable Cougar athletes of all time.

Low, an All-Pac-10 selection, led the Cougars in scoring this season and bounced back from a late season slump to turn in a stellar NCAA tournament effort. In the two games, he played 79 minutes, scored 33 points, dished 6 assists, grabbed 6 rebounds and made 3 steals.

His ice-water cool work in overtime, however, is what I'll never forget. In the first OT he brought the Cougs back to within one point on a nifty, well-defended drive into the lane. Then he knotted things up at 69 with his late trey. In the second OT, he nailed another jumper, inside the arc, to tie the score at 71.

We know the rest. But the good part is that the story isn't complete. Low, Kyle Weaver, Robbie Cowgill, Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and Daven Harmeling are all back next season. Everyone else on this team is back too except Ivory Clark and Antonio Chavers.

ALL THE HAND-WRINGING about whether Tony Bennett may get picked off by a higher-paying, higher-profile school strikes me as unnecessary. Why? Four reasons. First, this team is going to be even better next year. Second, Bennett recruited Low's class and the one right behind them on the explicit premise of helping build an enduring program. Third, he got the head job at a tender age because WSU was OK with nepotism (i.e. he owes a lot to Jim Sterk). And fourth, as former WSU coaches George Raveling, Kelvin Sampson and Jim Walden have attested, the grass may look greener elsewhere, but Pullman is a very special place to be.

ONE OF THE GREATS in the annals of Cougar hoops was recently inducted into the Pac-10 basketball hall of fame: Vince Hanson, a WSU All-American from the 1940s. He set a national scoring record in the 1944-45 season with 592 points -- an outpouring that still finds him ranked No. 3 on WSU's single-season list behind Isaac Fontaine (1997) and Don Collins (1980).

CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN order for WSU senior forward Kate Benz, who concluded her Cougar career with more than 1,000 points and 800 rebounds. The only other Cougar woman to accomplish that feat was Cassandra Overby (1981-84). Benz, by the way, also has been a perennial All-Academic pick in her Cougar career.

Overheard at a WSU men's game last month were two fans debating who they thought was the greatest player in Cougar women's basketball history. By my recollection, there really are only two contenders -– Walla Walla's Jeanne Eggart (1979-82) and Mossyrock's Jenni Ruff (1993-96). Both were honorable mention All-Americans. They rank, alternately, first and second in the WSU record book for most career and single-season points. Each also is in the top four in career assists. In addition, Ruff is No. 3 in career rebounding and Eggart No. 6. Eggart is No. 1 in career steals, and Ruff No. 3 in career 3-point field goal percentage.

Shelley Patterson, a Cougar basketball standout in the early 1980s, has been hired as an assistant coach by the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. Patterson ranks among WSU's career leaders in assists and steals.

PART II OF THE three-volume film about Cougar football -- Legends of the Palouse -- is on sale now. Like Part I, it's full of amazing old game footage, plus recent interviews with Jim Sweeney, Jack Thompson, Rueben Mayes and other WSU greats. For a preview and to order your copy, click to LEGENDS OF THE PALOUSE.

ON A FINAL, THOUGH somewhat tardy note, I must say that I didn't lose any Christmas cheer with the news that Dirk Koetter was fired by Arizona State and Dan Monson was forced out as head hoops coach at Minnesota. Koetter has been a petty bush leaguer from the get go, though his replacement, while not caustic like Koetter, certainly fails any test of scruples or integrity.

Monson, the former Gonzaga coach, resigned at Minnesota seven games into his seventh season with the Golden Gophers. Why, you ask, does this former fourth-string, one-season Idaho Vandal football wonderkind rank on my All-Turd list? Simple. When introduced to one of our editors two years ago, the first words out of Monson's mouth were these: "Washington State? Do they still have a basketball program there?"

Why, yes, you classless lout, they in fact do! You may have seen them listed in your NCAA tourney bracket.


Cougfan Top Stories