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STEVE DeSHAZO: Bennett hopes to make a name for himself at Virginia
By Steve DeShazo
Said Littlepage: "Everyone said words to the effect of, 'My gosh, if you can get that guy, you've got to get him.'"
The lovefest got a little out of hand yesterday when Littlepage mentioned John Wooden in the same breath as a 39-year-old with three years of head-coaching experience.
Still, Bennett does seem to have many of the qualities on university President John Casteen's wish list: "intelligence, respect, credibility,
Oliver worked at Washington State before Bennett and his father, Dick, arrived there six years ago. He admired their work from afar--especially in 2006-07, when Tony Bennett won 26 games with a program that had endured 10 straight losing seasons. The fact that WSU had four of the five members of the all-Pacific 10 Conference academic team didn't hurt, either.
Still, aware that Bennett had turned down Marquette and LSU last year and took himself out of the running at Indiana, Oliver said that he wasn't sure Virginia could land its top choice.
The younger Bennett apparently had name recognition in the right circles to get the Virginia job. Now, he must ingratiate himself with the state's high school and AAU coaches, few of whom know him. To win in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he needs more talent than he had at Wazzou--and much more than he inherited from Dave Leitao.
"The best thing you can sell as a new coach," Bennett said, "is the chance to come in and be part of a turnaround. That's what we did
To that end, the man Littlepage described as Virginia's new "Basketball CEO" made
"He knew all our names," junior center Jerome Meyinsse said. "He walked in and knew a little bit about each of us, even before he met us."
A week ago, Bennett was
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443