The 2008 Co-West Coast Conference Coach of the Year, Randy Bennett, took over as the head men's basketball coach prior to the 2001-02 season. In his eight years as the head coach at Saint Mary's College, he's brought the excitement back to the program. During his tenure, he's become the school's all-time wins leader (155 victories), guided SMC to three post-season appearances (2 NCAA and 1 NIT), led the Gaels to their first post-season victory (2 wins in the 2009 NIT), and had a player drafted (Patrick Mills, 2009) by the NBA for the first time since 1984.
En route to his school record for wins in his career, Bennett averages more than 19 wins per season at Saint Mary's. He tied the school record for wins in 2004-05 and 2007-09 with 25, then in 2008-09, his team set a new school record with 28 wins, including two wins in the National Invitational Tournament, marking the first post-season wins for SMC since 1959. Bennett is the only coach in school history to lead the Gaels to two NCAA Tournaments and guided SMC to the school's first ever NIT appearance. No other SMC coach has guided his squad to more than one post-season appearance.
In addition to the team accomplishments, Bennett has had 15 players garner All-West Coast Conference recognition, with 12 first team and three honorable mention selections. Additionally, Anthony Woodards was named the 2003 WCC Defensive Player of the Year, Diamon Simpson was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year twice, and Patrick Mills was selected as the 2008 WCC Newcomer of the Year. Bennett also recruited Daniel Kickert, who finished his four-year career at SMC as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,874 points, and Simpson finished his career fourth in scoring (1,603 points), first in rebounds (1,130), first in blocks (239), and first in steals (174). Additionally, Simpson set the single season record for rebounds, when he had 377 during the 2008-09 season. Mills, who became just the second player in school history to leave early for the NBA, set a freshman record with points in a season and a game, and ended his career with 950 points, the most ever by a player in his first two seasons.
Bennett has guided the Gaels to a 155-97 (.615) overall record while compiling a 68-44 (.607) mark in WCC action. Bennett became the College's winningest coach when the Gaels defeated East Tennessee State in the semifinals of the Rainbow Classic on December 21, 2007, giving him 111 career wins, passing James Weaver (110-67), who held the record for 47 years. Bennett became just the fourth head coach in school history to lead SMC to the NCAA Tournament when the Gaels garnered a No. 10 seed in 2005. In 2008, he became the only coach in the program's history to guide two teams to the NCAA Tournament when the Gaels earned a 10-seed.
Over the past six seasons, Bennett has guided the Gaels to 131 total wins, averaging 21.8 wins per season. He's led SMC to the semifinals of the WCC Tournament in each of his eight seasons, which include WCC Tournament final appearances in 2004, 2005, and 2009. Under Bennett's tutelage, the Gaels have posted five second place finishes in the WCC in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009. Over the past six years, the Gaels have compiled a 58-26 (.667) against WCC opponents, and are just one of two teams in the WCC that have a winning record in conference play over that stretch. In addition to being tough against WCC opponents, Bennett's Gaels are even tougher at home. In the last six years, SMC has a 78-16 (.840) in McKeon Pavilion, which includes a 30-2 mark over the last two seasons.
The 2008-09 season was one of the best ever at Saint Mary's and ended with the school's first appearance in the National Invitational Tournament. The Gaels opened the tournament at home against Washington State, and defeated the Cougars 68-57 for the first post-season win since the 1959 NCAA Tournament. SMC then defeated the Stephen Curry led Davidson Wildcats (80-68), before falling to San Diego State (66-70) in the quarterfinals. The season included a school record 18-game win streak, which was the longest in the country before being snapped by Gonzaga. The Gaels received votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll all 19 weeks, and were ranked in the top-25 three weeks, reaching as high as No. 18 on January 26. SMC also received votes in the Associated Press Poll in 16 of the 19 weeks, and a No. 22 national ranking the week of January 26.
The 2007-08 season marked a memorable year for Saint Mary's as Bennett guided the team to a then record tying 25 wins with a 25-7 overall record. The Gaels were ranked in the top-25 in both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press Polls for numerous weeks. Bennett's squad set a school record for consecutive weeks in the top-25 poll, as SMC was nationally ranked by the coaches for six straight weeks, while the writers recognized the Gaels at a national power for five consecutive weeks. In total, Saint Mary's earned votes in both national polls for 17 consecutive weeks. Bennett's 2007-08 team earned the school's fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, and second at-large berth in his tenure in Moraga. Diamon Simpson became the school's all-time leader in blocked shots, en route to being named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as earning First Team All-WCC honors. Patrick Mills made a big impact for Saint Mary's in his freshman season, as he set a freshman record for points scored in a season and in a game, and was named the WCC's Newcomer of the Year and garnered first team all-conference accolades.
With a young Gaels squad, Bennett guided Saint Mary's into one of its toughest schedules in program history in 2006-07. The Gaels faced off against six schools that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, which included Nevada, Southern Illinois, Gonzaga, and USC, and the Gaels also battled perennial Big East power, Connecticut. With the schedule as tough as it was, the Gaels posted a 17-15 record, marking the fourth straight winning season for SMC, something that has not been done since a five-year stretch from 1955-60.
In what many considered a rebuilding year for the Gaels in 2005-06, Bennett guided the Gaels to a 17-12 record, marking the third straight winning season. After a 1-5 start to WCC play, the Gaels rallied to post a 9-2 record over the final 11 games and post their third straight second place finish in the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary's averaged 70.7 points per game and the team's scoring leader Daniel Kickert (16.7 ppg) was named to the First Team All-WCC squad for the third straight season. Diamon Simpson, who led the Gaels in rebounds (6.7 pg) and blocks (1.4 pg), was named to the conference's all-freshman team.
The 2004-05 season was one to remember, as Bennett guided SMC to a school record 25 victories, matching the 1988-89 mark. In addition, the Gaels posted a 13-4 non-conference mark and a 15-1 record in McKeon Pavilion. The 13 non-conference wins established a new school record, while the 15-1 home record marked the most wins and best winning percentage in the 28-year history of McKeon Pavilion.
At the conclusion of the 2004-05 season, the Gaels had an RPI of 29 out of the nation's 330 Division I men's basketball programs. The season-ending RPI marked the highest in school history and fourth best ever in the WCC. The Gaels reached an RPI of 27, midway through the season, marking the best in school history. When Bennett took over the program in 2001, the Gaels were coming off a 2-27 campaign in 2000-01 and were ranked 315 out of 319 teams in the RPI. Since that time, SMC has seen the nation's biggest jump in RPI over the past four years, improving 285 positions since Bennett took over the program.
Bennett guided SMC to 25 wins in 2004-05, marking just the sixth time in school history that the men's basketball team eclipsed the 20-win mark. The last time the Gaels topped the monumental 20-win plateau was the 1988-89 season when SMC posted a 25-5 record. En route to 25 victories, the Gaels posted an 11-3 mark in WCC action, marking the best record in conference play since the 1988-89 campaign. With 11 WCC victories SMC posted the second most conference wins in one season, marking just the fourth time SMC has posted 11 wins during conference play since joining the WCC as a charter member in 1951. Following the 2004-05 campaign, Daniel Kickert and Paul Marigney were named to the First Team-All WCC team for the second straight season. Additionally, Kickert was named the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Player of the Year.
In his third year, Bennett guided the Gaels to a 19-12 overall, a second place finished in the West Coast Conference in 2003-04 with a 9-5 record, and a finals appearance in the 2004 WCC Tournament. Bennett also coached sophomore Daniel Kickert and junior Paul Marigney to First Team All-WCC honors, marking the first time SMC landed two players on the all-conference team since the 1996-97 season.
In his first year he guided the team to a 9-20 record, a seven-win improvement from the previous year and guided the team to a 15-15 record in his second year. The Gaels were 19-12 in year three and advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the third straight year.
In Bennett's first recruiting class he brought in junior college transfers Samuel Saint-Jean and Anthony Woodards. In their second years, Saint-Jean garnered First Team All-WCC accolades and Woodards was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. The selection of Saint-Jean to the all-conference team was the first Saint Mary's selection since 1999 and Woodards' defensive honor marked the first Gael to earn that honor, and the first SMC player since 1999 WCC Player of the Year Eric Schraeder to earn a conference individual award.
With Woodards spearheading the defense, Bennett's squad has led the conference in scoring defense the past two seasons, allowing 64.1 points per game in each campaign. In addition to the best overall scoring defense in the conference in 2002-03 Saint Mary's was second in rebounding defense (32.9 pg) and steals per game (7.24), and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.9 percent).
Combined with his eight years as the head coach at SMC, Bennett has over 25 years of coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level. After serving as an assistant coach for 16 years at San Diego (1985-96), Pepperdine (1996-99) and Saint Louis (1999-01), Bennett was hired as the 27th head coach at Saint Mary's in April 10, 2001. His tremendous wealth of knowledge and coaching expertise helped SMC to its first NCAA tournament berth in nine years and he was rewarded with a six-year contract in April of 2005, locking him in at SMC through the 2009-10 campaign.
Prior to accepting the position in Moraga, Bennett was the top assistant at Saint Louis University for two years under Lorenzo Romar. Taking over after a season in which the Billikens were sub .500, Romar and Bennett coached Saint Louis to an NCAA Tournament berth after winning the Conference USA Tournament with four consecutive wins in four consecutive days, holding all opponents under 60 points. Saint Louis was the first team in NCAA history to accomplish this feat. Included was an upset of then #1 nationally ranked Cincinnati. Bennett's on-court duties at Saint Louis included coordinating the conference's best field goal defense, working daily with individual players, and teaching team concepts. Off the court, Bennett was the recruiting coordinator, organized practice schedules, and scouting.
Before working with Romar at Saint Louis, Bennett was also his top assistant at Pepperdine University from 1996-99, where he helped rebuild the Waves' program. The 11-win turnaround following the 1996-97 season was the second biggest improvement in the nation from the year prior. Two years after taking over a program that finished last in the WCC, the Waves finished second in 1998 and 1999 and advanced to the NIT following a 19-12 finish to the 1998-99 regular season. As the recruiting coordinator at Pepperdine, Bennett helped bring in a 1997 Top-20 nationally ranked class, which included talented players such as 2001 All-WCC honorees Kelvin Gibbs and California transfer Jelani Gardner and Arizona State University transfer Tommie Prince. In 1998, 2001 All-WCC honoree Brandon Armstrong was also recruited by Bennett out of Vallejo High School. Armstrong went on to be the first West Coast Conference player to be drafted in the first round since Steve Nash and the first player since Dennis Johnson to leave school early to go to the NBA. He was also responsible for coordinating the defense, which was ranked #1 in the WCC in 1997 and 1998. Bennett worked with individual players on a daily basis, teaching team concepts and coordinating and evaluating practices.
Bennett began his coaching career with a one-year stint as an assistant coach at the University of San Diego. He then moved to the University of Idaho for two-years, before returning to San Diego for another eight seasons as the Toreros top assistant. Bennett started at San Diego under Hank Egan, who is now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before returning as an assistant coach for Brad Holland. During his time at San Diego, the Toreros amassed a 122-102 (.598) overall record. Bennett was the recruiting coordinator for the Toreros, and also worked daily with individual players, taught team concepts, coordinated and executed practice, as well as assisted with the coordination of a preseason conditioning program. In his two-year stint at the University of Idaho, Bennett worked under former Chicago Bulls and USC Trojans head coach Tim Floyd from 1987-88. The Vandals finished the 1988 season 19-11 and placed second in the Big Sky Conference.
Bennett earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from the University of California at San Diego in 1986, where he played basketball from 1983-85 and was the team captain. Prior to UCSD, he attended Mesa Community College in Mesa, AZ, where he played basketball for his father from 1980-82. At Mesa, Bennett helped his team to a 31-4 record and an Arizona Junior College Championship in the 1980-81 season, as well as a #10 national ranking. In the 1981-82 season Bennett was the team captain, helping the team to a 25-6 record and a second Arizona Junior College Championship. Randy married Darlene (Darby) in the summer of 1998, and live in Moraga with their two sons Chase (6) and Cade (5).
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