Bennett hire official: Coach will earn $1.7 mil. per year
He left his heart– or at least his job– in Pullman, Washington.
That's what Washington State head men's basketball coach Tony Bennett has done, as he has accepted the job to coach at the University of Virginia.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, March 31, UVA confirmed the hire and stated the new coach would be paid $1.7 million annually for five years, plus a $500,000 signing bonus, plus another $500,000 bonus if he makes it to the fifth year of his deal. This is nearly double what Bennett was earning at Washington State, and much more than the $1.1 million salary previous head coach Dave Leitao earned this past season.
Says UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage of his new coach in a release, "He is an outstanding basketball coach and is a perfect fit for UVA. He has all of the needed coaching and leadership skills along with an understanding of how to succeed in a highly competitive academic and basketball environment."
On Monday, March 30, Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk confirmed that Bennett was taking the Cavaliers' job in a statement. Sterk thanked Bennett for having "elevated the men's basketball program at Washington State to an unprecedented level of success."
The hire appears to have come together over the course of a weekend. Sterk says that UVA first asked for permission to speak with Bennett last Thursday, March 26. On the afternoon of Monday, March 30, Bennett informed his bosses at WSU of his decision to accept UVA's offer.
UVA made a point to mention in its press release that Bennett's compensation will be funded entirely by a "stand-alone auxiliary that relies on a number of different revenue streams, including ticket and merchandise sales, student fees, ACC television revenues, and philanthropic gifts," and does not come from state funding.
The 39-year-old coach has been the Cougars' top man since accepting the job in 2006. In his three seasons at WSU, Bennett has compiled a record of 68-30, with two NCAA Tournament bids and a run to the Sweet 16 last year.
In 2007, after leading the Cougars to their first Big Dance in 13 years, he won the Associated Press National Coach of the Year award.
When he dons the orange and blue, Bennett will be complete newcomer to the east coast college hoops scene. Tony Bennett is no relation to the legendary crooner of the same name, but he is the son of longtime college coach Dick Bennett. The younger Bennett played for his father at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay before going on to a three-year stint as a point guard with the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.
Following his brief playing career, Bennett joined his father as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and then joined his father again when he came out of retirement to coach Washington State in 2003. Since taking over the Cougar program from his father, Bennett has led the team to second and third places finishes in the Pac-10 Conference.
–updated March 31 at 4:12pm, original headline, "Coach watch: UVA to hire Wash. St.'s Bennett"