At least that's what he said on Friday. Per Bud Withers:
Bennett said, "I'm not going to comment on anything that doesn't pertain to our season. That's all you're going to get out of me."
ESPN was running a lead story on their site with the lead-in of "WSU's Bennett to succeed Sampson?" And so it begins.
Let's make it clear, right now - Even if Tony was foaming at the mouth as soon as the Sampson news dropped at the very idea of taking that job, he isn't going to say it right now. He's no dummy. They are in the stretch drive right now of a great 2-year run, and have a serious opportunity to build off last season and take that next step. He's not about to undermine his program for his own selfish reasons. He's going to continue to not comment until the final seconds have ticked off the clock for this year, and then, well, then we'll see.
The ironic thing is that Withers also pens an article today about President Floyd and his role in the future of the athletic department (pretty good timing?). You read it and you realize that he's going to be pivotal to our direction. Heck, we know for a flippin' FACT that Floyd was a huge part of the Doba dismissal, period. This guy isn't going to hide in his office and hope that things just magically work out!
So, what do you think young Tony will do? Does he bolt for a job that is one the top-6 winningest programs of all time? Back to his midwest roots, with facilities and travel and a commitment to the hoops program that makes you weak in the knees? Do the Bennett's really love Pullman?
A couple of wildcards here are first, the interim head coach at IU. Dan Dakich appears to be in a good spot to take the reins, and in case you haven't noticed, Indiana is having a really good season. Maybe they make a seriously deep run, maybe even Final Four, and then the overwhelming sentiment could be to keep the intern, ala Steve Fisher at Michigan. Dakich is relatively young at 45, and from the Knight coaching tree. He's one of "theirs". Dakich also had nothing to do with the Sampson phone calls, so he's pretty clean. I don't think at this point we can just assume that IU is 100% sure they are going to need to find a new guy once this thing plays out.
The other thing here is that yes, Tony is about the hottest young prospect around. But he's still finishing only his SECOND season as a head coach, at any level. Think about that. None of these players that are getting the job done are even guys that have been brought in with him as head coach. I know, I know, he's a dynamite recruiter and had a huge role in bringing these current players in. But from the outside, IU might think "hmmm, only 2 years as head coach?" Coach of the year or not, that could be a legit concern. And the other side of that is hey, this is IU for gawdsakes! A top-6 program all-time. They don't usually take chances on rising stars. They are in a position where many coaches that are more seasoned than Tony would dream to get to IU. Kelvin left Oklahoma for IU, although it's pretty obvious Kelvin might have been running away from something in the process. But still, it's IU!
Coaches that have actually made deep tournament runs over several years, coaches who have maintained success over a long period of time, coaches that have built a major program over the years? Those are the coaches that should be #1 on their list. I'm not about to take a shot at Tony, but it's reality. He's a guy that quite simply hasn't done a whole lot yet as a head coach. Of course we think the world of him and we know he's outstanding, and given a few more years who the hell knows what he can do. We've already got a 4-star guy in Harthum, and a 3-star guy in Klay Thompson who has serious upside. And the whopper, per Howie, the #1 junior in AMERICA has WSU on his list right now!
So there is no denying it, Tony has a really special thing going right now. He's got a lot of money for Pullman, they like the area, he's worshipped by students and fans, and he's building a program that fills the arena with energy and passion. But maybe he's not the perfect fit - YET - at a place like IU. No matter what though, we should just get used to the rumor-mill and Tony Bennett. Period. WSU never has kept the young sexy coaches. There is a real commitment to the program now, and WSU hoops is a hot product, so things aren't what they used to be. But as long as we are haunted by Dennis Erickson-like boltings, we just have to accept that with Tony, this sort of stuff will come with the territory.