It’s been a long journey to this point for St. Mary’s basketball coach Randy Bennett. Nearly three decades ago, he began his collegiate basketball career under the wing of his father Tom Bennett, the coach for MCC at the time. As team captain his sophomore year, he led the Thunderbirds to their second consecutive Arizona Junior College Championship.
He finished out his playing career at the University of California at San Diego, where he was also team captain.
He quickly transitioned to the coaching side of the game, and worked as an assistant at a number of schools from the University of San Diego to the University of Idaho.
“Having a father as a coach definitely helped me transition into coaching. I learned a lot from him,” said Bennett.
He eventually took over his first full season as head coach of the St. Mary’s Gaels during the 2001-2002 season.
“When I took over as head coach at St. Mary’s I learned a lot through my experiences though, and despite the influence of my father, I quickly developed a style of coaching unique from him. You have to adapt to individual situations.”
In just nine seasons he has more victories than any other coach in the history of the school.
Bennett turned a program that was in shambles into a very competitive program.
Bennett brought the Gael’s back to the top of the WCC, giving Gonzaga a serious competitor for the past few years.
St. Mary’s faced a particularly solid West Coast Conference this year. Portland’s surprising success this year added to the depth of the Conference. Games against tough teams always help to prepare a team for the tournament. The win against the Zags in the conference championship was definitely a boost as well.
“Our win over Gonzaga was definitely a huge boost for our confidence going into the tournament. It helps to know that we can hang with the best in the nation. Portland gave us two great games as well,” said Bennett.
This season has culminated into the pinnacle of his successful career though, taking the Gael’s to their first Sweet-16 in over half of a century.
“The success of this season has started to settle in, but it will probably be months before I really start to reflect back on it and say, wow!