Back on Cougfan this week, with a wide-ranging look at Jeshua Anderson’s Olympic chances, the basketball scholarship situation, Kyle’s draft position, baseball commit Rusty Shellhorn (who happens to attend my old high school – Go Bears) and more.
Regarding Bennett’s comments – which were great to hear, by the way, I thought I would point out one thing in particular. There have been plenty of superlatives all around for Tony finally opening up to the press – see Jim Moore here for an example. Still, I thought I would point out one phrase that may come back to haunt Cougar fans someday, if we’re not careful:
“The special thing about being a Coug is that when things go well it’s appreciated and celebrated more than anywhere else,” Bennett said. “And I think when you’re struggling and trying to rebuild the program, Cougs are more patient and understanding. That’s what makes this place great.”
What concerns me about our fan base is that I’m already seeing signs of a change in expectations with Cougar basketball. My fear is that the next time we need to rebuild (with will be 2009, if not this upcoming season), fans won’t be as patient with the program. That’s disconcerting, because it took three years to build the team to the one we had the pleasure of watching the past two seasons. Things don’t happen overnight when an entire program needs to revitalized.
Granted, it won’t take as long this time around for WSU to rebuild, as the national exposure has ramped up recruiting to a whole new level. But next year there will be juniors on campus who have never seen a losing season from a Cougar basketball team. There will be freshmen, who unlike me will be coming to what they think is a basketball school and not a football school. There will be alumni and fans who neglected to support Bennett ball until the first tournament appearance. Most WSU fans are grounded and will be patient – odds are if you’re reading this blog you’re one of them. But there’s a minority of fans that worry me as we head into the upcoming season.
The point is this: I hope that Cougar basketball fans can be patient once again, because if they aren’t, it may give Tony his best opportunity yet to leave. Dick Bennett was always thrilled that we loved the Cougs just for being competitive. But that wasn’t the case in football, where we’ve fielded a “competitive” team for the last four years but have been in disarray because it followed three 10-win seasons. It’s a different circumstance, but the expectations had changed.
I feel that the only way Bennett is going anywhere soon is if he feels a disconnect with the fans on where the program is going. It going to be up to us. Which means no booing if the team loses to Oregon State this year, and no panicking when the team drops three games in a row. If anything, support needs to be stronger for the team now than it originally was when the Bennett’s arrived.
I know there’s not much stock put into “sources” after the media frenzy around Bennett this Spring. But, I have a source of my own who talked to Tony recently. The gist of the conversation was that Tony was tired of the media craze, and wasn’t ever really planning on going anywhere. The only job he remotely considered was LSU because of the ties to his wife’s family in Baton Rouge.
Bennett has shown his loyalty to WSU time and time again. It’s time to keep returning the favor.