Great news out of Pullman for Coug fans, as my prediction came true: Tony Bennett is not going anywhere next year, as he has agreed in principal to a contract extension with WSU.
"I knew I wanted to be back," Bennett told reporters via conference call. "For me it's about fit. This program, this job, fits me."
Terms of the contract have not been finalized, as Bennett is traveling to Atlanta for the Final Four, an annual ritual among most college coaches. According to the AP, "The contract is likely to include a variety of incentives, plus deferred compensation and a larger buyout clause, Sterk said."
I can't help but be excited, as well, by Bennett's commitment, because I believe him to be a genuine man who means what he says.
"It’s said by a lot of people that if you can have a good year, boy, this is a place where you’ve got tot take a look to go elsewhere. It’s a hard place. I don’t feel that way. I think the journey has just started. This group of young men, I want our program to know that. We don’t want to be just a flash in the pan.”However, I will reserve jumping up and down until I know what the terms of the contract are. While I'm excited for what is obviously shaping up to be a big 2007-08, the team loses its core after the season and it could present a nice breaking point for Bennett.
I'll be a lot more excited if I find out the buyout on the contract is somewhere in the $1 million range -- a figure that won't be a deterrent to most big schools desperate for the right coach, but big enough to help the Cougs land a suitable replacement. This is a school that has always settled for the cheap choice, looking for a diamond in the rough. Rarely have they found that diamond -- although Kelvin Sampson comes to mind -- and a buyout of that magnitude could help the Cougars land another suitable coach.
Skepticism aside, though, how can you not smile today if you're a Coug fan? When a guy says that his family likes Pullman and the job "fits" him, it starts to sound like we might have not just found the diamond; we might have found the diamond mine.