Cougars coach to retire; son to succeed him

Updated: February 28, 2006, 6:56 PM ET
Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Dick Bennett will retire as Washington State's basketball coach after the season and turn over the team to son Tony Bennett, school officials said Tuesday.

Bennett, 62, was hired in March 2003 to rebuild the Cougars' program. With two games remaining, WSU has an 11-14 record (4-12 Pacific-10 Conference). Bennett has a 36-46 record in three years at WSU.

"I did what I set out to do. What I wanted to do might have been a little more," Bennett said in a Pac-10 coaches conference call. "The best way I could put it is: We got what we expected, not necessarily what we hoped for."

Bennett, who stepped down three games after taking Wisconsin to the NCAA Final Four in 2000, came out of retirement partly to help his son, a former Wisconsin and NBA player, get a head coaching job.

Terms of Tony Bennett's contract are still being discussed, WSU athletic director Jim Sterk said. Dick Bennett is paid about $300,000 a year in base salary, endorsements and incentives. Tony Bennett, an associate coach and the team's primary recruiter, makes a little over $100,000 a year.

Although he described his three-year tenure at WSU as difficult, "it was three years that had to be served," Dick Bennett said. His teams were notable for their youth and tough defenses, including this season's sweep of cross-state rival Washington for the first time in 12 years.

"I think I did what I expected to do," he said. "If you ask me, 'Is that what you wanted?' No, I wanted more."

Sterk said Bennett has significantly approved the moribund WSU team, which had a 13-41 record in the two years before he was hired.

"He brought respectability back to the program," Sterk said.

The elder Bennett -- who built a reputation for turning around struggling programs in Wisconsin -- said he will wait until after the season ends to look back on a 40-year coaching career, which likely will end at the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles.

"I coached my first game in 1965 in a junior high gym in West Bend, Wis., and likely, my last game will be in the Staples Center," Bennett said. "That in itself, I've got to figure out what happened in between, that's the story."

Tony Bennett was selected last summer to succeed his father, whose career record as a head coach at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin and Washington State is 490-303.

"I am very thankful for this opportunity," Tony Bennett said. "I can't tell you how much of a privilege and a honor it is for me to follow in the footsteps of my father. Everywhere he has gone, there have been two things that have been consistent when he has rebuilt programs. People have always said they have been full of integrity and passion. There's no question that is what I want to carry on."

The younger Bennett, 36, is one of three sons groomed to succeed their father.

At Oklahoma State, Sean Sutton is the designated heir to his father, Eddie, who is currently on medical leave after he was injured in a car accident. Eddie Sutton was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding and driving left of center. He will face those charges after completing treatment for alcoholism.

At Texas Tech, Pat Knight was named coach-designate to his father. Bob Knight, 64, is under contract through May 2009.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press