Tony Bennett left his heart at Washington State as his mind takes him to Virginia


Tony Bennett, who led Washington State to its first appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2008, will be named head coach at Virginia.

Washington State director of athletics Jim Sterk confirmed that Bennett has accepted the head-coaching position at Virginia on Tuesday.

“Dick and Tony Bennett have elevated the men’s basketball program at Washington State to an unprecedented level of success,” Sterk said in a statement released by the university. “We will begin a national search for a coach immediately with the goal of finding someone with the integrity, experience, and values that Dick and Tony brought to the program.”

Bennett, who led the Cougars to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances before finishing 17-16 this past season, replaces former Cavaliers coach Dave Leitao, who resigned March 16.

Financial terms of Bennett’s contract with Virginia weren’t immediately known.

Sterk said that Virginia asked for permission to speak with Bennett last Friday. Monday afternoon Bennett informed Sterk and WSU president Elson S. Floyd of his decision to accept the position at Virginia. Following those conversations, Bennett informed his players of his decision.

“I was so shocked,” freshman guard Klay Thompson told the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “I’m disappointed, I’m really disappointed. Shoot, I don’t know. But it’s life. I’ll adjust.”

Virginia officials planned an official announcement for Wednesday.