Washington St. hopes to hire new coach in a week

SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington State hopes to hire a basketball coach to replace Tony Bennett within a week, according to Director of Athletics Jim Sterk.

Bennett surprised the team on Monday by taking the vacant job at Virginia.

Sterk told reporters Monday night that he wants to hire a replacement quickly to retain current players and those who have signed to join the Cougars next season.

"This is going to be short and quick," Sterk said, adding he hoped to name a successor within seven days, and no later than two weeks.

Potential hires mentioned by Sterk include Ken Bone of Portland State and Bill Grier of San Diego. Other names being tossed around include Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's and Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti, who was head coach at Utah and Eastern Washington.

Sterk and WSU President Elson Floyd will make the decision.

Both praised Bennett, who posted a record of 69-33 and took the Cougars to the postseason all three of his years.

"He has done a fabulous job at WSU and we will greatly miss him. We wish him every success at UVA," Floyd said.

Sterk said that Virginia asked for permission to speak with Bennett last Friday. Bennett informed Sterk and Floyd on Monday afternoon, then told his players.

Bennett is a gifted recruiter and Sterk said it was imperative to keep as many of the nine freshmen in last year's class and the new players Bennett signed for next season.

"That's why the quicker we act the better off we are, so there's no lingering doubts about what's going on," Sterk said. "Our intent is that everyone will stay."

Sterk said he expects to pay a new coach about the same $1 million per year that Bennett was making.

"I don't expect us to go backwards, but I think we'll be paying competitively, what the person's experience and market value (deserves)," Sterk said.

Sterk immediately contacted Portland State athletic director Toree Chisolm for permission to speak with Bone. Sterk worked at Seattle Pacific when Bone was a coach there.

Sterk also said he planned to contact Grier, a long-time assistant at Gonzaga who has had success in two seasons at San Diego.

Washington State wants a person with Division I head coaching experience who can thrive in the Pacific-10, Sterk said.

"This is a very, very competitive conference," he said. "We need to have that experience in order to compete."

Several Washington State players expressed a preference for current assistant Matt Woodley, but Sterk said current assistants would not be considered. It is unclear if any of the assistants, including Ben Johnson, Ron Sanchez and Mike Heideman, are leaving with Bennett.

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