Seen & Heard on Planet Coug 4/2

IT'S A GOOD THING Cougar hoops coach Tony Bennett is planning to stick around Pullman. Based on a quick glimpse of Final Four coverage Saturday, WSU still needs to convince people it's a basketball school. At halftime of the Ohio State-Georgetown game, when Bennett received yet another national coach of the year award, the good folks at CBS managed to put the Husky "W" logo next to Tony's name.

While outrageous, I'm thinking it has less to do with the fact the Cougars haven't been on the national basketball radar in a dozen years as much as the fact the state of Washington is so far away from Madison Avenue. Cougars? Huskies? It's all the same back East. I wonder if word has reached New York that we now have paved streets and running water out in these parts?

Speaking of Tony, he's had quite a week. First, there was news of the agreement-in-princicpal on a seven-year contract that is believed to pay him a base salary of around $700,000 a year -- a figure that can carry a guy very far in Pullman. And then there's all these national coach of the year awards. He is the first Pac-10 coach to win five major coach of the year honors since UCLA's legendary John Wooden in 1972. We'll find out Thursday if Tony snags No. 6 when the Naismith Coach of the Year Award is announced.

Given the East Coast bias, especially when it comes to basketball, the fact Tony is winning all these awards -- including the Associated Press' in a landslide vote -- is quite a testament to the mark the Cougars made this season.

TRAVIS COULTER AND Jared Prince are the Cougar baseball team's undisputed sophomore sensations, but a quick perusal of the stat sheet this season draws your eye to a pair of seniors: third baseman Jeff Miller of Bellevue, and outfielder Zach Borba, a transfer from UNLV who went to the same Reno high school as former WSU placekicker Graham Siderius.

Miller is hitting .305 with a team-leading 32 hits and .486 slugging percentage, plus 16 RBI. Borba is hitting .314 with 16 RBI and a team-leading seven stolen bases.

Miller's older brother, Jay, is the all-time hits leader in Cougar history and is now in the Phillies' minor league system.

The Cougs are 16-12 this season, but having a woeful time in conference play, where they're 1-5. That first Pac-10 victory came yesterday, when Scott Suttmeier's three-run homer ignited the Cougar offense and Matt Way retired the final six batters for his first save of 2007 as WSU defeated Cal, 9-6, in Berkeley. Miller and Borba each had RBIs in the game.

CINCINNATI REDS first baseman Scott Hatteberg, one of three Cougs in the Major Leagues this season, is now 38 but shows no signs of slowing -- he was 10th in the NL last season in on-base percentage and is expected to bat No. 2 in the Reds' order. Cincy, by the way, will be making its first-ever trip to Seattle this season to play the Mariners.

The two other Cougs in the Majors are pitchers Aaron Sele and Mark Hendrickson. Both were vying for the fifth starter's role -- Hendrickson with the Dodgers and Sele with the Mets -- but will start the season in the bullpen. Sele is in his 15th season in the Majors. Hendrickson -- one of the greatest basketball players in WSU history and an NBA veteran of four seasons -- starts his seventh season in the Show.

FORMER WSU PUNTING great -- and 2003 Holiday Bowl hero -- Kyle Basler has re-signed with the Cleveland Browns and is headed to NFL Europe to perfect his form. Basler signed a free agent deal with the Browns a year ago and acquitted himself well in the pre-season but wasn't able to unseat veteran Dave Zastudil.

Cory Withrow from the Cougars' 1998 Rose Bowl team, recently signed a three-year deal with the San Diego Chargers. He spent last season with the club, mostly working on special teams, after a long stint with the Vikings. One of his teammates -- and fellow centers -- last year with the Chargers was Cougar standout Nick Mihlhauser, who is now with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.

THE COUGARS OPEN THE football season Sept. 1 against Wisconsin in Madison. This will mark just the second time the schools have met on the gridiron. In 1976, the Badgers prevailed 35-26 in front of 69,000-plus fans. While Bucky the Badger has long been Wisconsin's mascot, I stumbled across an interesting factoid the other day that suggests the nickname may have deeper origins than the furry critters. In the 1820s, lead miners in Wisconsin were called "Badgers" because in the winter they lived in dugouts in the sides of hills and cliffs.

LAST WEEK MARKED A a sad passing on Seattle's professional sports scene with the death of Bill the Beerman, otherwise known as Bill Scott. He was 58, claimed by colon cancer. A fixture at Seahawks and Mariners games for 20 years, he used his booming voice and flailing arms to rally the hometown fans. He was unique and lovable and beloved. One of my most enduring memories of him, though, wasn't in the Kingdome, but at Martin Stadium. It was a beautiful Palouse day in October 1985. The Cougs were locked in a donnybrook with Arizona State when Bill appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and within moments had the stadium rocking. It was no small feat, either, because there were only 14,000 people at the game. Rest in peace, Bill. Thanks for the great memories.

WHILE NOTORIOUS FOR poor customer service, I must say that Lowe's, the home improvement store, has outdone itself with a new line of doors engraved with your favorite team's logo. Head to www.logodoor.com. Once you're there, click on "Washington State" and let the wistful phrase, "If only I weren't married," begin to dance in your head for a quick moment.

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