Bennett: Cougars will be no flash in the pan

COUGAR BASKETBALL coach Tony Bennett said every recruiting stop he's made in recent days has included the same question: Are you leaving WSU? Saying he wants to "continue the journey" in Pullman, Bennett answered the question definitively Tuesday with the announcement of an agreement in principal on a long-term contract. Winning basketball can be regular, not rare, at WSU, he said.

"I want this group of young men and this program to know we do not want to be a flash in the pan," Bennett said after athletic director Jim Sterk announced that a seven-year contract would be finalized after the Final Four. "We worked hard for four years to get to where we are. I am so excited to be in Pullman."

Details of the pending contract were not disclosed.

Bennett, who was in the Salt Lake airport waiting to board a flight for Atlanta and the Final Four, said this was a journey that began four years ago when father Dick Bennett took the reins of a Cougar basketball program that had fallen on hard times.

"Everybody said 'Hey what are you doing going there, it's a place where it can't be done.' ... And then it's said by a lot of people, "If you can have a good year, it's a place where you've got to take a look to go elsewhere, it's a hard place (to win),' and I don't feel that way.

"I think the journey is just starting. I want this group of young men, I want our program to know we don't want to be some flash in the pan. We've worked hard for four years to get to where we are."

Athletics Director Jim Sterk said he was not contacted by any schools asking permission to talk to Bennett, although Bennett said he was approached by other schools he declined to name.

"There were opportunities for me to pursue but I chose not to pursue them," said Bennett.

Bennett said the reason why was a simple one -- he knew he wanted to stay at Washington State.

"I'm so excited," said Bennett. "My family loves Pullman. I love the character of the young men on our team, the character of the Administration, Jim Sterk and the leadership there, the President and just the community. I'm excited to continue to try and build what we've started."

The Final Four, a place where considerable networking takes place, was a factor in making the announcement today, said Bennett.

"Our deal (here) is about family, the relationships that our team has and what Washington State is about. A lot of people might say 'well why don't you have something signed before you went.' That doesn't matter. There's a trust relationship here. Things are going to be good for the basketball program. For me, I'm very thankful for the position and the situation I'm in."

Few details on the pact, beyond the length, were immediately available.

"We're still working on the structure and the details so we won't be releasing any numbers or specifics," said Sterk.

Sterk did confirm the deal would include changes to Bennett's salary, incentive and buyout clauses, plus deferred compensation and assistant coaches' salaries were also part of the deal.

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