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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Bennett’

MAILBAG: APR, the starting five, and recruiting

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 19, 2008

Welcome to our first edition of the mailbag, where I will attempt to answer your inquisitive questions with my awesome ability to speculate despite a total lack of access to any kind of insider information!

Mike R. wonders about the effect of Thomas Abercrombie’s departure on the team’s APR:

“Perhaps this should be a mailbag question (feel free to answer it then), but what kind of impact will this have on our APR score? Obviously, it’s not as bad when guys leave while in good academic standing, but will this still have a negative impact?”

In a word, yes, it will have a negative impact. But it will be minimal.

The important thing to remember is that while any departure from the program does hurt you a little bit, it only really hurts you a lot when the guy leaves the program academically ineligible or having not made what the NCAA deems as satisfactory progress towards a degree. (Vince Grippi does a great job explaining it here.) We have no reason to believe that was the case with Abercrombie.

And even then, that’s only if the average of the previous four years is below 925. This basketball program is going to soar well over that 925 mark next year, thanks to the abysmally low score in Dick Bennett’s first year finally leaving the four-year average. Even if Abercrombie did leave the program ineligible, chances are good there would be no penalty, anyway. It’s this progress that’s allowed Bennett to take a chance on a talented guy like DeAngelo Casto, who might be a litle bit of a question mark in the classroom. If he doesn’t pan out, no harm, no foul.

Grady over at Stadium Way wonders about the starters in 2008-09:

“Hey, I’ll bite on that mailbag request. What do you think the starting five will be for the Cougs next year?”

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Mailbag | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Ask and ye shall receive (unfortunately)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 15, 2008

Just one day after lamenting there’s been no WSU basketball news to speak of, the team announced yesterday that Thomas Abercrombie is leaving to pursue professional opportunities back in his homeland of New Zealand.

I’m disappointed, but hardly surprised. His athleticism turned him into somewhat of an urban legend around the program — for his entire redshirt year, all anyone heard was how high the coaching staff was on this long lanky kid who kept destroying people in practice and needed just a little more seasoning before taking the Pac-10 by storm — but he never came close to living up to the hype.

In an offensive and defensive system that relies heavily on precision, it was obvious to even this untrained eye that he was consistently out of position on most possessions. The athleticism was evident in the minutes he got this year, but equally evident was that he didn’t really have any clue how to play Bennett basketball. That’s a pretty huge problem.

Some guys “get” the Bennett system, some guys don’t. It takes a different kind of basketball IQ to play for a guy like Tony Bennett, and while I don’t know anything about Abercrombie personally, one can make a reasonable claim that after two years in the program — one a redshirt in which his sole job was to learn how to play in the system — he should have been a lot farther along in his development than he was. With a six-man recruiting class coming in that includes three guys who basically play his same position, the writing was on the wall.

The thing I’m most sad about, from a purely selfish perspective, is that he’s heading back to New Zealand. I would have loved to see him transfer to another school and watch what he could do in a system that really played to his strengths, one that allowed him to just lock guys down one-on-one on defense and get out and run and run and run on offense.

But it’s not about me, it’s about him, and I feel sad for Abercrombie that it turned out this way. Without that redshirt year, he would have had just two years of eligibility remaining and would have essentially endured two out of three years with no competitive basketball. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that either, not 7,000 miles from home. It’s time for him to get on with his basketball career, and in the right situation, I’m sure he can have a nice one back home.

In the end, it became a numbers game for a guy that never quite seemed to fit. Keep that in mind next time you’re going nuts over the next “can’t miss” recruit — this is just another example of the kind of wacky circumstances that can keep a kid from fulfilling his potential in a program.

Oh, and by the way: Still looking for mailbag questions. I’ve gotten a few already, and I’ll be working on it over the weekend. Continue to fire away here.

Posted in News | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

On Bennett’s raise

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 5, 2008

So, there seems to be quite a bit of consternation that despite Tony Bennett receiving a sizable raise from the university, the buyout clause in his contract is still “only” $500,000 or so. Even though that’s a number that’s uncharted territory for any WSU coach, it doesn’t appear to be giving people a lot of comfort right now.

I know this is part of the angst built into our Cougar DNA, but let me provide a little perspective.

The sense I get is that everyone is reading a little too much into this raise. My understanding, from everything I’ve read, is that this isn’t a total restructuring of his contract, as it was last year — it’s just a raise.

Now, a $200,000 raise naturally raises the eyebrows of you and me who need four-to-six years to make that kind of jack — the sheer number makes us think that’s a huge raise, especially when the total amount the school is handing out has now topped seven figures. But it’s not even close to the kind of raise he received last year. Think of it this way: This is the equivalent of going from $40,000 a year to $50,000 a year — a nice raise to be sure, but not earth-shattering stuff.

The thing to keep in mind is that this was a one-sided affair, coming from the school’s side. Although Tony did ask for some things at the conclusion of the season, such as raises for his assistants and charter flights for the team, Tony didn’t ask for a raise for himself. Had he asked for it, I think it’s fairly obvious they all might have entered into the kinds of negotiations that would also protect the school with a larger buyout. But that wasn’t the case. Restructuring a contract is a complicated legal process that, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure neither side had any interest in undertaking.

Dale Carnegie would tell you that one of the three fundamental techniques in handling people is to “give honest and sincere appreciation.” I think this is precisely that. This is the school saying, “We know you didn’t ask for this, but hey, you’ve done an awesome job, and we want to let you know how much we value you by rewarding you.”

In an ideal world, we’d absolutely love to have a larger buyout. But that’s going to require ripping up the current agreement and going back to the drawing board, and that wasn’t going to happen this year. So the school did what it could do to protect its investment: Try to keep its best employee happy — not because he asked for it, but because it was the best thing to do.

Posted in Discussion | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Bennett gets his raise

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 1, 2008

I guess I could just keep recycling that “another first for WSU basketball” headline in perpetuity.

The Seattle Times is reporting that the raise that was rumored from the moment Tony Bennett turned down Indiana has been finalized, and it’s a doozy.

How much of a doozy? How about $1 million per?

Count me among those Cougs who never thought we’d see a coach crack seven figures until pure inflation demanded it. But as AD Jim Sterk says in the story, Bennett is well worth it, and I’m glad the athletic department was able to pony up the cash the guy has earned.

A million bucks can buy a lot of super baskets at the Cougar Country Drive In, that’s for sure.

Posted in News | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Why is it so hard to believe Bennett?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

Seth Kolloen over at Enjoy the Enjoyment offers a Husky fan/outsider’s view on Tony Bennett today in response to what Vince Grippi and I have written, saying he’s “completely shocked” that Bennett didn’t jump ship for another program.

“Now I’m not the national media, but, frankly, I don’t believe it either. Maybe I’m just pessimistic about human nature, but when you tell me someone is ‘different,’ it’s tough for me to take. The list of coaches, politicians, preachers, etc, etc, etc, who’ve professed one thing and done the complete opposite when the pressure got too great is beyond my ability to enumerate.”

Now, before you rail about him being a Husky fan and make some snide comment about anybody who’s not a Coug always being shocked that anyone wants to spend any time in Pullman, I’ll tell you this: Kolloen is always even-handed in his assessments of the Cougs, and, to be fair, he is correct in stating that there are so few examples of guys not chasing the bigger job that the skepticism is warranted.

However, for as hard as it is for Kolloen to believe Bennett’s different, it’s just as difficult for me to understand why it’s so hard for some people to comprehend that a guy — in fact, any person, not just Bennett — wouldn’t necessarily want to jump at the first “good” thing that comes calling. While Bennett’s not the egomaniac that a lot of other coaches are, he does ooze self confidence. And if you believe in your own abilities and think you’re good at something, why would you:

  1. Presume that you “can’t” be as successful as you want to be where you’re at before you’ve even really had a chance to try?
  2. Presume that you’re never going to reach the level of success you’ve had so far and therefore aren’t going to have an opportunity to move on to another great job at some point in the future when the timing is better?

I think Bennett truly believes he can create a long-term winner at WSU, and he wants to find out for himself that he can’t win a national championship here no matter what anyone else says. And I’m sure he believes that when it’s time to move on, it’ll be the right time, and there will be a great job that presents the appropriate challenge right there waiting for him.

The bottom line is that I think we Cougs are in a great position. He’s going to build this program for a couple of more years and either fall in love with Pullman — again hard for anyone who’s never gone to WSU to understand, but it happens more often than they think — and stay for a long time, or build a very good program that is ready made for the next coach.

Either way, we win.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Why is it so hard to believe Bennett?

Go read Vince Grippi this morning

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

If you don’t make the Spokesman-Review’s SportsLink a regular part of your reading, make sure you cruise on over there and check out this piece by Vince Grippi this morning.

Normally, Grippi just writes a little bit of analysis on different things, then passes along a bunch of links. This morning, though, he wrote an extended post on his thoughts on Tony Bennett. It pretty much fleshes out a lot of his personal perspective and feelings about Bennett and the coaching carousel, which he has been hinting about the entire season:

“It’s a vicious circle born out of the money college coaches make today and the vagabond existence most of them lead. But Bennett is about as far from a vagabond as you can find, and the money? Well, he is still shocked anyone would want to pay him nearly a million dollars a year to do his job. And those two elements are what most in the national media, who try to play kingmaker, don’t understand. They think Bennett is like everyone else, ready to jump at a ‘better job’ that offers more money and a chance to win the national championship.

“They don’t get a guy who thinks about his family first, second, third, ad infinitum. They don’t get a guy who is more than satisfied with the money he’s earning. They don’t get a guy who wants to win a national title, but at this point in his life welcomes the challenge of trying to win one with a certain type of player, players he can attract to Pullman. He’s different than the coaches they are used to dealing with, so they try to shove him into the coach-form they are used to. And it doesn’t work.”

It’s a great, great piece that reiterates what I’ve been saying ad nauseam this season: That Tony Bennett is different from other coaches, that his priorities aren’t the same as other coaches, and that this constant media speculation is born out of most reporters’ complete inability to comprehend that. My opinion was based solely off of outsider observations, just reading quotes and knowing a little bit about his value system. Grippi’s is based off of actual conversations, both on and off the record.

Will the national media ever believe Bennett? Probably not.

But is it more important that the national media believe him, or that we believe him? I’ll go for the latter. And that’s good enough for me.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Go read Vince Grippi this morning

One shining moment

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 8, 2008

Well, now that we know Tony Bennett is sticking around for at least one more season (no surprise here), maybe we all can finally relax, kick back, and suspend our Cougar angst just long enough to exhale.

In the first of what will be a couple of looks back at this season — which I can now finally let go of since the champion was finally crowned last night — join me in watching One Shining Moment … again. I never get tired of it.

I count three four WSU appearances in the video. Enjoy.

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament, News, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Pac-10 just got tougher

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 4, 2008

This guy's return to the Pac-10 is good for the conference's stature, but bad news for the rest of league's teams.In a move that would have been akin to Mike Price taking over for Ty Willingham, Mike Montgomery is apparently going to become the next head coach at California.

While I’m surprised Montgomery made the jump across the bay after so many years at Stanford (most recently as assistant AD), frankly I’m more shocked that it took this long for Montgomery to get another job. I also wish it had been in a different conference, because he’s a heck of a coach that just made things that much more difficult for everyone else.

I was always surprised that his name didn’t surface more often in connection with job openings. Maybe it’s because he was content to keep drawing those massive checks from the Golden State Warriors for doing nothing and all the ADs knew it, or maybe it’s because he’s not a hot, young, up-and-coming coach in a profession infatuated by potential and “making a splash.”

Whatever it was, as the Bears have made an excellent hire that is sure to revive the dormant program. Montgomery won 30 games three times at Stanford, taking the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 18 years. If he can do it under the kinds of restrictive admissions guidelines he worked with at Stanford, he certainly will bring a winner to Berkeley.

Bennett getting another raise

Back in Pullman, the WSU administration is doing everything it can to make sure the Cougs are contributing to that conference clout, announcing that they’re reworking Tony Bennett’s deal for the second consecutive year. It appears that Bennett wasn’t the one requesting it, and that we’re not really changing any of the terms other than compensation.

This just shows what a tremendous understanding President Floyd has of what athletics do for the stature of a university, no matter how much academics want to pretend it doesn’t matter. I love the aggression in terms of making sure our coach is happy (put well in this Daily Evergreen piece), but this is uncharted territory for WSU. I can’t help but wonder if we can keep doing this every year. 

Can we keep this up? And what kind of precedent are we setting if, say, Paul Wulff somehow puts together an instant winner on the gridiron?

Those questions aside, I love that we’re taking our shot now and being proactive, rather than waiting until later to try and do just enough to keep him, as we’ve been wont to do in the past. When you get lightning in a bottle, you better do everything you can to keep it.

Posted in Game Threads | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Don’t believe everything you read

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 29, 2008

We all expected this, right? I mean, you lead WSU to the Tournament two consecutive years including a Sweet Sixteen appearance, and everyone and their grandma is going to be after your coach.

If you believe everything you read, you believe that Tony Bennett is on the first plane to Bloomington this morning, and that the plane is filled with about $500 million. Or, you believe that Bennett is on the first plane to Berkeley, and that the plane is filled with about $1 billion. Or, if you truly believe that last story, you believe that he’s on the first plane to anywhere that’s not Pullman.

Or, you can listen to the guy who has covered the Cougs since last summer and believe him.

My thoughts on this haven’t changed at all — which I wrote about here and was written about here — and neither have those of anyone close to the program. So relax, and don’t panic. I still think Bennett is here for at least one more season, and probably longer.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Why we love WSU basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 27, 2008

We’ve all heard the story about Taylor Rochestie giving up his scholarship next year so the Cougs could pick up another recruit. But I guarantee you’ve never heard it told quite like this.

This is why, no matter what happens tonight, we love this team. And it’s why I count it an absolute blessing and privilege to have a man like Tony Bennett and the men that will take the floor tonight representing my university. It’s why I do what I do with this blog.

The beauty of a selfless act is that it begets more selfless acts. Tony Bennett gave Rochestie a chance when no one else would. Rochestie gave up his scholarship when the team needed it. And everybody on the team knows it, which means when it comes time for the next selfless act — showing up for extra workouts during the offseason, sticking around for an extra hour to help a struggling teammate shoot jumpers, staying up and talking with a teammate who had a particularly rough day, giving a guy a ride — they’ll do it.

Not because they have to. Because they want to.

Thanks to Longball for passing the link along. 

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »