Saturday, March 29, 2008
Source: Indiana's coaching search picking up steam
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
Indiana is hoping to name a men's basketball coach by next Thursday, on the eve of the Final Four, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the school's search process.
Efforts to replace former coach Kelvin Sampson and interim coach Dan Dakich have picked up speed as teams lose in the NCAA tournament, making coaches of tourney teams available for interviews. Athletic director Rick Greenspan was expected to go on the road this weekend to start conducting interviews outside of Bloomington, according to the source.
The source also said a published report Saturday morning that Indiana had made an offer to Washington State head coach Tony Bennett was inaccurate. Indiana has not offered anyone the job, according to the source.
Reached Saturday morning in Pullman, Bennett told ESPN.com, "I haven't had one conversation with [Indiana] and so, no, I haven't been offered the job.''
Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said Saturday morning that no school has asked for permission to talk to Bennett.
According to the source, Bennett is expected to be one of the top names on Greenspan's list along with former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery. The source said that Indiana has been told that a potential buyout for Xavier's Sean Miller would be too rich for Indiana.
A source close to California said that the Bears are also interested in Bennett as a replacement for Ben Braun. And another source indicated Cal is looking at Montgomery, too.
Sampson resigned in February and took a buyout a week after the school received a notice of allegations for major violations in the program, stemming from phone call abuse. Indiana has to go in front of the committee on infractions in June. Indiana could add more self-imposed sanctions prior to the case being heard.
The NCAA won't release its findings or proposed penalties until sometime this summer after the hearing.
Dakich took over for Sampson on Feb. 23. The Hoosiers went 3-4 under Dakich, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Arkansas. The Hoosiers will lose senior forward D.J. White and are expected to lose freshman Eric Gordon to the NBA draft.
Bennett was the national coach of the year last season after leading Washington State to 26 wins, a second-place finish in the Pac-10 and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament. Bennett led the Cougars to 26 wins again this season and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Bennett grew up in Wisconsin and played at Wisconsin-Green Bay under his father, Dick Bennett. Tony Bennett was an assistant at Wisconsin, working for his father on the 2000 Final Four team. The younger Bennett also coached under Brad Soderberg for a season and then Bo Ryan for two at Wisconsin before going to Washington State with his father as an assistant in 2003.
After last season, Washington State doubled Bennett's salary to $800,000. Sterk said Thursday night after the team's Sweet 16 loss to North Carolina that he would do everything in his power to keep Bennett, including offering raises to his assistant coaches and working on improving charter travel for the Cougars out of remote Pullman.
While Washington State will lose core seniors Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill, they are expected to return two key juniors, point guard Taylor Rochestie and center Aron Baynes. The Cougars are also adding a well-regarded recruiting class led by Klay Thompson, the son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson.
Bennett's sister, Kathi was the women's coach at Indiana for five years, the last being in 2005 when Greenspan was the athletic director.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.