Friday, May 02, 2008

WAPL - Closing Keynote

Rhonda Puntney introduced Dick Bennett using his comments over the phone about his children. His son is coach at Washington State, and his daughter was just named an assistant basketball coach at UW-Madison. He coached basketball at Eau Claire Memorial as well as UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay, and took the Wisconsin basketball team to the Final Four in 2000.

He started his speech with his early connections to libraries, and his love of reading books. As a faltering high school student, a teacher got him started again on reading books like Mutiny on the Bounty so he got a degree in English as well as Physical Education. He actually wanted to teach more than coach. For the last 15 of his 40 years of coaching he felt a great deal of pressure, and the only way he could survive was to lock himself in a room with a good book.

When he retired, the first thing he did was get a new card. He got hooked on Cormac McCarthy among others. He really enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction like Doris Kearns Goodwin, and McCullough's 1776. He finds parallels in history and his coaching style. Instead of focusing on winning, he (and George Washington) focused on "not losing" as the tactic.

He then spent time talking about his experiences coaching. He noted that Rhonda did not give his win/loss record. He noted that his role was to re-build basketball programs. He was hired on the heels of someone getting fired.

He closed with a letter written to him by his granddaughter. The letter from a 4-year old, asked him to try to be happy. A month after getting the letter, he announced his retirement. He had enjoyed the good times and lived through the bad times.

Dick graduated from Ripon College. Classmates include Harrison Ford and Al Jarreau.

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