Cougar players in tears after Bennett news

WASHINGTON STATE freshman forward DeAngelo Casto told a Spokane television station that several players cried Monday afternoon during an emotional meeting with Tony Bennett when the coach informed the team that he was leaving for Virginia. The big shot blocker also talked about his future, while the parent of another notable freshman weighed in as well.

Casto, speaking to KREM-TV prior to the WSU Sports Information Department's order that players not to talk to reporters, said some players would like to see assistant coach Matt Woodley replace Bennett, thought athletic director Jim Sterk said Monday night that no Bennett assistant would be considered for the head job.

Casto, a key reserve on the Cougars, said he does not plan to transfer.

Julie Thompson, the mother of starting guard Klay Thompson, said her son "likes it a lot" at Washington State and gave no indication to her that would transfer.

One of WSU's top recruits, Charlotte, N.C., prep star David Chadwick, said he is not absolutely certain he will honor the letter of intent he signed with the Cougars. "Right now, I'm still committed to Washington State.," Chadwick said. "There are a lot of things I really loved about the school besides Coach Bennett. I just need some time to sort things out."

Chadwick's coach, Lane Odom, said Bennett is "an honorable, good guy" who would not ask Washington State recruits to follow him to Virginia.

Bennett, 39, replaces Dave Leitao at Virginia. Leitao posted a 63-60 record in four years with the Cavaliers before resigning at the end of the season. Bennett was 69-33 in three years at WSU.

Leitao guided Virginia to winning seasons and postseason tournaments in each of his first three seasons, then went 10-18 this season with a first-round loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Virginia finished 11th in the 12-team ACC with a 4-12 conference record, and attendance suffered.

The Cavaliers had only two seniors this year, and neither was a regular starter. Virginia's top six scorers are set to return. WSU is losing three starters to graduation and will have only one senior next season.

Virginia shared the ACC regular-season championship with North Carolina and went to the NCAA Tournament in 2006-07, but the Cavaliers' only ACC Tournament title came in 1976.

There was no immediate word on the fate of Bennett's assistant coaches, though early indications were that at least some wouldn't be heading south.

Bennett did not respond to interview requests.

A WSU statement said Virginia contacted the Cougars last Friday to ask for permission to speak with Bennett. Earlier last week, Bennett had said he did not expect to be sought by any schools after his name popped up repeatedly regarding job openings the previous two years.

"The last couple years, I was the flavor of the month," Bennett joked. "This year, I'm back to vanilla, I think. You don't have to worry."
• The Portland Oregonian reports that WSU has asked Portland State for permission to talk with Vikings head coach Ken Bone. PSU has been to back-to-back Big Dance's under Bone. WSU AD Jim Sterk is the former PSU AD. "We will begin a national search for a coach immediately with the goal of finding someone with the integrity, experience and values that Dick and Tony brought to the program," Sterk said in a statement.

• Bennett is the only basketball coach to guide Washington State to three consecutive postseason tournaments. The Cougars tied the school record 26 wins in each of his first two seasons. He Bennett signed a seven-year contract with WSU last year that paid him a school-record $1million annually. Bennett must pay the school $400,000 for leaving early, a WSU official said.

• Bennett won't be taking any of his assistant coaches to Virginia with him.

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