This Tony Bennett Won't Be Leaving His Heart in Pullman

But he just sent Coug fans to the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. WSU head men's basketball coach Tony Bennett is head men's basketball coach no longer. (He's reportedly accepted the head coaching job at Virginia.) This wouldn't be a surprise except that, after winning AP Coach of the Year in 2007, he turned down LSU and Indiana, two equally high-profile positions.

But this year his team struggled, and despite his signing of D'Angelo Casto, it looked like Gonzaga and UW were going to get the lion's share of the region's talent. Not that it'll be any easier to compete in the ACC, of course. (Will he try to play his current brand of slow-down ball there, or will he run more with better athletes? He didn't see fit to run when his Coug team had Derrick Low, Taylor Rochestie, and Kyle Weaver.)

Bennett's suave, open-collared persona (watch him strike a pose) always seemed a strange fit for Pullman, which my colleague Laura Onstot points out loves its grandfatherly old men. But then, this is college sports, where suave can occur seemingly anywhere. Well-dressed Al Pacino look-alike Rick Pitino made his name in the state of Kentucky. (Though in its defense, the state does have Derby style, and Lexington is known as the Athens of the West.)

Who'll be the next Cougs' coach? It's too bad Bob Huggins is taken, as the Pac-10 could use his combination of entertaining ball and cocky players. (It was Huggins who shepherded Nick Van Exel, Ruben Patterson, and Kenyon Martin into the pros.) It'd make a nice basketball corollary to the Mike Price era of WSU football. Or maybe they'd like to take a shot at Cameron Dollar? Or, as SW proofreader Mike Mahoney suggests, Portland St. coach and former Lorenzo Romar assistant Ken Bone?

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