Derrick Low scores 18 points, all on three-pointers
Derrick Low scores 24 points, including five three-pointers
No. 4 WSU 56, Washington 52
Washington State vs. Montana - Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, in Spokane, Wash.
NCAA Tournament - First Round - Washington State vs. Oral Roberts
Following the fourth-best two-year start by a head coach in NCAA history, Tony Bennett enters his third season at the helm for Washington State University in 2008-09. In his second season after taking the reigns from his father, Dick Bennett, the younger Bennett put together his second-consecutive 26-win season with a 26-9 mark, tying the school record for wins in a season, while becoming the first WSU head coach to take his team to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons.
After spending one year as an assistant and another two as an associate head coach under his father at WSU, Bennett became the 16th man in school history to lead the program following the 2005-06 season. At age 39, the Green Bay, Wis., native ranks among the youngest head coaches in Division I college basketball, but carries nine years of Division I coaching experience, including four years as an assistant at Wisconsin and three years as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Washington State.
Celebrated as a tremendous recruiter, motivator, teacher and mentor, Bennett knows what it's like to be successful. In college, Bennett earned numerous accolades as a point guard playing under his father at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. As one of the top collegiate players, Bennett was chosen to participate in the 1991 Pan American Games, in which Team USA took home the Bronze medal. He followed up his collegiate career as the 35th overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft which led to a three-year career with the Charlotte Hornets. Following a playing and coaching career in New Zealand, Bennett returned to his home state to serve as an assistant at the University of Wisconsin alongside his father. In 2003-04, Bennett followed his father to the Palouse as an assistant coach and was later promoted to associate head coach.
Bennett has helped put WSU basketball back on the map in his two years on the Palouse. Chosen to finish last in the Pac-10 Conference prior to the 2006-07 season, the Cougars surprised everyone, placing second in the league with a 13-5 mark. WSU's second-place finish equaled the best by WSU in Pac-10 history, matching the finish by the 1982-83 squad. Showing that his first season was not a fluke, Bennett led the 2007-08 squad to an 11-7 Pac-10 record as the team tied USC for third place in the league. Washington State's 26 overall victories in each of the last two seasons match the most in school history, equaling the wins of the NCAA runner-up 1940-41 team.
In Bennett's first two seasons the Cougars reached the NCAA Tournament for just the fifth and sixth times in school history, while the 2007 bid marked the first tournament appearance since 1994. WSU also posted its first NCAA Tournament win since 1983 in 2007, defeating Oral Roberts, 70-54, March 15 in Sacramento, Calif., before falling to Vanderbilt, 78-74 in double-overtime in the second round. The following season Washington State made its first appearance in the Sweet 16 after putting on two of the greatest defensive performances in victories over Winthrop (71-40) and No. 15 Notre Dame (61-41) in the first and second rounds, respectively. WSU bowed out of the tournament after falling to No. 1 North Carolina, 68-47 in the NCAA East Regional Semifinal.
For his turnaround season in 2006-07, Bennett became the most decorated Pac-10 coach in a single season, taking home national coach of the year accolades from The Naismith, Associated Press, The Sporting News, United States Basketball Writers Association, Basketball Times, CBS/Chevrolet, Collegehoops.net, Collegeinsider.com (Jim Phelan Award) and Rivals.com. He also became the first WSU coach to be named Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year by the league since 1991 and picked up United States Basketball Writers Association District 9, National Association of Basketball Coaches District 14 and Collegeinsider.com Pacific-10 coach of the year honors.
Also in 2006-07, Bennett guided his young Cougar squad to wins over five ranked opponents including No. 18 Gonzaga (Dec. 5), No. 7 Arizona (Jan. 6), No. 20 Arizona (Feb. 1), No. 25 Stanford (Feb. 8) and No. 23 USC (March 3). The five wins over ranked opponents matched the most in school history, equaling the 1994-95 team. The following year, the Cougars picked up three wins over ranked opponents including No. 19 Gonzaga (Dec. 5), No. 24 Arizona State (Jan. 26) and No. 15 Notre Dame (March 22). The Cougs were also 12-8 against teams that competed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Two WSU opponents reached the Final Four (UCLA and UNC).
Highlighting the 2007-08 season were the Cougars' first Associated Press preseason ranking in school history (10th) and their highest ranking in school history (No. 4, Dec. 4-Jan.13), while their win Jan. 20 marked the first WSU victory over the Oregon in 13 games. WSU completed the sweep of the Ducks Feb. 16 in its first victory at McArthur Court in 13 seasons.
In his first two years as head coach, two of Bennett's key recruits from his first year as an assistant coach, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, received numerous awards including All-Pacific-10 Conference First Team accolades in 2007, making them the first WSU duo to earn all-conference first team honors since 1995-96. The duo earned all-league honors once again in 2008 as Weaver was named to the second team and Low earned third team accolades. Aron Baynes was an all-conference honorable mention honoree. The Pac-10 brought back its all-defensive team in 2008 as Weaver was named to the All-Pac-10 Defensive Team and Robbie Cowgill was named honorable mention. Weaver was taken by the Charlotte Bobcats as the 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft.
Low and Weaver capped off their solid junior seasons by being selected to represent the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, in which Team USA finished fifth. Two other Bennett recruits represented their countries in international play as Aron Baynes played for Australia and Thomas Abercrombie suited up for New Zealand in the 2007 World University Games.
Under Bennett's guidance in 2006-07, redshirt sophomore Daven Harmeling became just the second Cougar to receive Pac-10 Player of the Week accolades twice (Jan. 29-Feb. 4, Dec. 4-10) after his performances against No. 20 Arizona (Feb. 1) and No. 18 Gonzaga (Dec. 5).
Noted as a players' coach, Bennett puts an emphasis on working hard both on the court and in the classroom. A record five Cougars earned Pac-10 Men's Basketball All-Academic honors in 2007-08, bettering the previous record of three set in 2006-07. Senior Robbie Cowgill, and redshirt-juniors Daven Harmeling and Taylor Rochestie were selected to the first team in 2008, while junior Aron Baynes and sophomore Nikola Koprivica earned second team honors. Cowgill went on to earn a spot on the ESPN The Magazine District VIII All-Academic First Team and to earn the Pac-10 Scholar Athlete of the Year award. In 2006-07 Baynes, Cowgill and Harmeling were each named to the league's first team. Rochestie, following his coach's lead and was named one of 14 finalists for the Eighth Annual V Foundation Comeback Award.
In his three seasons prior to becoming head coach, Bennett served as an integral part of a staff that saw the Cougars post several historic victories, set or tie a pair of school records and lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense twice.
In Bennett's first season on the Palouse, the Cougars broke 12 losing streaks and captured their first road sweep of UCLA and USC in WSU history. The following season the Crimson and Gray took down No. 11 Arizona in Tucson to break a 38-game losing streak against the Wildcats and halt a 48-game skid overall against top 25 teams. Then, a win over Stanford in March of 2005 marked the first home-and-home sweep of the Cardinal since 1992-93. The 2005-06 campaign brought two wins over a nationally ranked Washington squad recording the Cougars first home-and-home sweep of the Huskies since 1994. The win at Friel Court marked the first home win over a ranked opponent since No. 25 California in 1997.
Bennett has proven himself to be an excellent recruiter. While at Washington State he has recruited student-athletes that have been honored by the Pac-10 nine times, earned 10 spots on conference academic teams and earned three Pac-10 Player of the Week awards.
Bennett came to Washington State from Wisconsin where he spent four seasons with the Badgers, highlighted by a Final Four appearance in 2000, a run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and a share of Big 10 Conference titles in 2002 and 2003. His responsibilities included recruiting, player development and summer camps.
While at Wisconsin, Bennett played a significant role in recruiting Devin Harris, Kirk Penney, Alando Tucker, and Brian Butch. Harris, the first team All-Big Ten selection and 2004 Big Ten Player of the Year, was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He was also a member of the 2006 NBA Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks. In 2008 he was traded to the New Jersey Nets.
Penney, an Olympian for New Zealand and one of his country's top players, earned first team All-Big Ten accolades in back-to-back seasons (2002-03). Tucker, a 2002 Top 50 recruit was named a first team All-Big Ten performer in 2006 and 2007 and earned Big Ten Player of the Year and was a first team All-American selection following his senior season (2007). Tucker was taken by the Phoenix Suns with the 29th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Butch, a 2003 Top 20 recruit, played in the prestigious McDonald's All-American game and was a 2008 All-Big Ten First Team selection and a 2007 Big Ten Honorable Mention honoree.
Prior to his years at Wisconsin, Bennett had a four year playing and coaching career in Auckland, New Zealand. He played for the North Harbor Kings from 1996-98. During those years abroad, Bennett was a player in 1996; a player/coach in 1997; and head coach during the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
In 1997, Bennett's team reached the New Zealand country final four. The highlight of his coaching career abroad came in 1998 when the North Harbor Kings finished as the national runner-up, marking the highest place finish in the history of the basketball club.
Bennett offers the WSU program the kind of knowledge that only a former NBA player possesses having played three seasons (1992-95) for the Charlotte Hornets before a foot injury ended his professional career in the U.S. Prior to being selected by the Hornets with the 35th pick in the 1992 NBA draft, Bennett enjoyed a storied collegiate career at UW-Green Bay where he played for his father, Dick Bennett from 1989-92.
He finished his collegiate career as the Mid-Continent Conference's all-time leader in points (2,285) and assists (601) while he still ranks as the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point percentage (.497). Bennett led the Phoenix to one NCAA Tournament berth, two appearances in the NIT and most notably helped UW-Green Bay to a 87-34 (.719) record during his collegiate playing career.
A two-time MCC Player of the Year, Bennett won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award given to the nation's most outstanding senior under six-feet tall. He was also the 1992 GTE Academic All-American of the Year. Bennett started for Purdue's Gene Keady on the USA bronze medal-winning 1991 Pan-American Games team.
As a high school senior at Green Bay Preble High School in 1988, Bennett was named first team All-State for the second consecutive year and won the coveted honor of Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball.
Tony and his wife, Laurel, have two children, Anna (7) and Eli (6).