The word servant in Rochestie's commentary wasn't chosen randomly. WSU's program is based on five core values, Bennett explained. One of them is servanthood.
In the basketball sense, Bennett said, that is manifested by asking a rhetorical question: Will you work to make your teammates better?
For the guys on the bench, that means practicing as hard as possible, and cheering mightily during games, to bolster the players on the floor. For veterans, it means taking the younger players under wing -– a notion that observers of recent Cougar practices say is readily apparent in senior Kyle Weaver's interactions with Stephen Sauls, Charlie Enquist and other freshmen.
WSU's other four core values are humility, passion, unity and thankfulness, Bennett said. The list was originally distilled by his dad, Dick Bennett.
BESIDES BEING A SERVANT, Rochestie is a left-hander. So are sophomore Nikola Koprivica and freshman Abe Lodwick. And next month, during the early signing period for national letters of intent, the Cougars are expected to land southpaw Marcus Capers –- the kid from Florida who Rochestie made room for. In addition, Spokane guard Anthony Brown, who has committed to be part of the Cougars' 2009 recruiting class, is a lefty.
All this left-handedness prompted one attendee at the Seattle dinner to ask Bennett if he was making a concerted effort to pickup southpaws.
"My dream is to recruit a team of all lefties --- I just think they do a little better," joked Bennett.
You couldn't blame him if he was partial to going left. The all-time NCAA record-holder for 3-point shooting accuracy was a lefthander -- a point guard, way back when, from Wisconsin-Green Bay by the name of Tony Bennett.
BENNETT SHOWED A heart-pumping highlight video of last season's 26-win effort that stirred the Seattle crowd. He said he played the same tape for his team when official practices began two weeks ago. They went wild over it. When the tape concluded, however, he took it out of the machine, walked over to a garbage can and dropped it in. "Last season is over," Bennett told his troops. "Teams are going to be gunning for you now."
Being a pre-season favorite is new ground for the Cougs but Bennett said the underdog mentality that defined last season is intact. He also noted that the Cougs won't be strangers to the weight of expectation -– last season they were nationally ranked in 15 of the Pac-10 games they played, and went into the final week of the regular season with a chance for the conference title.