Wisconsin basketball legend Dick Bennett will likely be named head coach at Washington State University during a Saturday press conference. Bennett will replace Paul Graham, the PAC-10 coach let go by the Cougars. Bennett’s team finished 7-20 on the season with only two conference wins.
Ray Giacolletti, head coach at nearby Eastern Washington, withdrew his candidacy after interviewing earlier in the week. Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk interviewed Milwaukee Bucks assistant Don Newman, who was once an assistant at the school as well as an interim head coach at Arizona State.
Bennett interviewed Sterk while in Spokane for the NCAA tournament’s Midwest regionals. Bennett flew in to watch his former team’s close win over Tulsa. Bennett’s son, Tony, is currently an assistant basketball coach at Wisconsin.
Bennett stayed in Washington through the end of the weekend finishing up his interviews and flew back to Madison Monday.
Bennett has been offered two other coaching jobs since retiring, both in the PAC-10. Oregon State and Washington requested his services after last season, but Bennett turned them both down in order to stay near his close, Wisconsin-based family. Washington State has apparently impressed him enough to override this desire.
Bennett, 59, retired from Wisconsin in November 2000, eight months after leading the Badgers to the Final Four. He retired the day after the Badgers defeated Maryland three games into the 2000-01 season, citing the physical drain that coaching had taken on his mind and body.
Bennett has been successful wherever he has coached, building programs at UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay and UW-Madison. He is known for an emphasis on defense and a deep knowledge of the game.
Bennett would likely bring in his son Tony as an assistant coach and possibly turn the team over to him in a few years. Bennett has said that he would not take the job simply as a means to give his son a head-coaching spot. The Wisconsin legend cites a renewed interest in teaching and developing players as his motivation for getting back to the sidelines.