Cougars Eyeing Bennett

From Associated Press

Former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett appears to be at the top of Washington State's list of candidates for head coach, several newspapers reported Wednesday.

Bennett, who turned around three programs before walking away from college basketball three games into the 2000-01 season, spent time with Washington State Athletic Director Jim Sterk last weekend in Spokane, Wash., the Spokesman-Review reported.

Sterk, who fired Paul Graham in an effort to stop a seven-season slide in the Cougar program, wouldn't confirm the meeting. Sterk did not immediately return a call for comment.

Washington State's interest in Bennett was also reported Wednesday in the Seattle Times and Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. The Journal, quoting an unidentified source, reported that Washington State was planning to introduce Bennett as coach on Saturday.

Bennett had no comment when asked Tuesday about the job.

Sterk also has interviewed Milwaukee Buck assistant coach Don Newman, a former Washington State assistant; Western Washington Coach Brad Jackson; and Eastern Washington Coach Ray Giacoletti, who withdrew from consideration Tuesday.

Sterk reportedly "gushed" about Bennett at a Pullman restaurant Tuesday, and told a group that his only reservation was whether Bennett has any hesitation about stepping back into the game after a three-year absence.

If Bennett, 59, accepts the Washington State position, it is expected he would bring his son, Tony, a Wisconsin assistant, with him.

Before quitting at Wisconsin, the elder Bennett was in the college game for 25 seasons, compiling a 453-258 record. He also coached at Wisconsin Stevens Point and Wisconsin Green Bay.

In five seasons at Wisconsin, he had a 93-69 record. Four of his teams advanced to postseason competition, three to the NCAA tournament.

Before Bennett's arrival, the Badgers had been to only three NCAA tournaments.

In 2000, Bennett led the eighth-seeded Badgers to the Final Four. They became the first team to play in the Final Four without an all-conference player.

When Bennett stepped down in November of 2000, Wisconsin was ranked No. 23, had just beaten No. 13 Maryland and expected to have another strong season.

But Bennett, who had contemplated retirement just after the Final Four run, said he couldn't go on.

"I just simply was drained," Bennett said at the press conference at which he announced his decision to leave. "I just simply could not keep up, and it began to bother me. I don't want to go out cynical."

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