REPORT: Bennett expecting to leave?

A REPORT PUBLISHED late Friday night cited unnamed sources close to the Washington State program in saying WSU head man Tony Bennett was "expecting to leave" Pullman after two seasons and was one of two finalists for the Cal job. A different report, also published late Friday, said Bennett has been offered the Indiana job.

"Washington State coach Tony Bennett is expecting to leave the Cougars and is one of the two candidates who have emerged as frontrunners for the Cal vacancy, according to sources close to the Washington State and Cal programs," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The other candidate is reported to be Mike Dunlap, a Denver Nuggets assistant coach.

Meanwhile, Fox Sports reported Indiana has offered it's open coaching job to Bennett. The report also cited unnamed sources.

Bennett declined to answer last month when asked if he planned on fulfilling the seven-year contract he signed this past offseason, and again demurred Thursday after the Cougs were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, saying, "Right now, I'm coach at Washington State. I want to talk about the seniors and what's going on tonight."

Bennett makes a guaranteed $800,000 annually. The contract includes a $500,000 buyout clause, should Bennett leave any date prior to April 30, 2008. The buyout decreases by $50,000 each subsequent year.

This is the second consecutive offseason WSU fans have been in limbo while Bennett has been named a candidate for other jobs. A year ago, during WSU's Cinderella-like ride during Bennett's first season at the helm, generous Cougar fans donated some $600,000 to WSU's Basketball Excellence Fund. Athletic director Jim Sterk sent an email appeal to fans earlier this month asking them to prime that pump again.

Washington State is 52-17 over the last two seasons under Bennett, reaching the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament in two years. Players asked about their coach after WSU was eliminated on Thursday expressed confidence Bennett would return to Washington State next season.

"He'll be back," said junior center Aron Baynes.

"It's a situation where what's going to happen is going to happen. I'm confident he's coming back," said Taylor Rochestie, also a junior.

Departing senior Derrick Low said Bennett would return.

"I'm positive," Low said. "They love it in Pullman, the atmosphere. I don't see him going anywhere. As long as Coach Tony is around, I think players will buy into what he asks and they'll do well."

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