If you're a Coug fan like me who constantly finds himself frustrated by the dearth of Coug-related sports coverage over here on the west side, you need to check out Glenn Kasses' "All Cougs, All The Time" blog through the Spokane Spokesman-Review. As the title suggests, it's full of all kinds of cool stuff about Cougar football and basketball that you just won't get over here in Huskyland.
(Kudos, by the way, to The News Tribune, who recently joined The Seattle Times in sending a live reporter to WSU games, both home and away.)
Glenn wrote an awesome story about Dick Bennett for the Saturday edition of his paper, which you can get to by going to this blog entry and clicking through to the story. (I can't link directly to the story, because the S-R makes you pay to access its online version unless you're a print subsriber or you click to stories directly linked through their blogs. Stupid, I know.)
That blog entry includes a lot of Glenn's interview with Bennett that didn't make it into the story. In one spot, he talks about how Dick bristled at a question regarding his offense as it compared to Tony's offense. It reminded me of my first interview with Dick, as he was heading into his first year at WSU.
I've had the opportunity to interview Dick a couple of times for freelance stories I've worked on over that past few years, and I can truly say that in my career as a sports writer, he's EASILY in my top five favorite guys to interview.
I'm kind of a hoops junkie, and I know comparing anyone to John Wooden is borderline sacrilege. But talking basketball with Dick Bennett has to be at least somewhat like talking to Wooden -- the guy just knows so much about the game, and loves to talk about it.
During my first interview with him, the first question out of my mouth had to do with offense. (I was a college basketball writer when he was on his Final Four run at Wisconsin, so it seemed a natural place to start.) "Bristled" is not the word I would have used to describe his response; I was worried he was going to hang up on me. The interview settled in nicely after that, as we moved on to other topics, but his initial response was telling. The guy clearly hates that "slow-down" label.
I interviewed him again a couple of years later for a story on Derrick Low, and he remembered our conversation from before. That always stuck with me. We talked for about 45 minutes on the phone about everything from Derrick to the Pac-10 to teaching (as I had become a teacher by then) to favorite places to eat in Pullman. I used about five minutes worth of the material in my story. The rest was just for fun, and I think he had a good time, too. He loves talking about basketball with anyone who will listen.
He may come across as a bit curmudgeonly, but he really is a great guy whose knowledge and love for the game runs deeper than most of us realize.