Feb. 13, 2003
The Florida State women’s basketball team had a special guest visit practice this week. Coach Dick Bennett, who is recognized by most basketball authorities as the top defensive strategist in the nation, has been in Florida for the past month and made a special stop in Tallahassee to see an old friend, head coach Sue Semrau. Bennett spent his entire collegiate coaching career in the University of Wisconsin system including leading the Wisconsin Badgers to a school-record 22 wins in each of his last two full seasons and reaching the 2000 Final Four. Bennett and Semrau became acquainted when Semrau was an assistant coach at Wisconsin, prior to taking over the reigns at Florida State.
Bennett addressed the team after attending the Seminoles’ practice. Each member of the team told him a little bit about herself and then Bennett told the group a little about his background. He also gave some insight on what he saw from the team’s practice.
“It was good to have someone with that much experience come in and give an outside perspective on our team,” junior Lauren Bradley said. “We hear the same thing from the coaches everyday and I think it’s good to get someone who has great experience in the sport of basketball and has been to the Final Four to come and give us his point of view on our team.”
After coaching stints at Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin-Green Bay, Bennett got his dream job – the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. When he took the job in Madison, it was on two conditions, that he would coach just five years and that he could do it his way. Following his fifth season, in which he guided the Badgers to the Final Four, Bennett decided to give it one more year. By the second game of that season, he knew it was a mistake. He had achieved all of his dreams – coaching his son, coaching at UW and coaching in a Final Four. He was tired and had lost his desire to coach and decided it was in his and Wisconsin’s best interest that he step aside and “ride into the sunset.”
Like Semrau was to Florida State, Bennett was brought to Wisconsin to rebuild the Badger program. In fact, he has always been a “rebuilder.” He said that his initial job in rebuilding programs has been to eliminate losing. Ironically, it was also his permanent job. He explained that sometimes, you’re going to get beat, but it’s the games you lose, that you should have won – those are the ones to eliminate. He had to teach teams and teach individuals to eliminate the things to keep from losing, the things that cost you the game.
“Look in the mirror and eliminate the things that make you lose,” Bennett told the Seminoles. “Don’t try to do things you can’t do. They only cause you to fail.”
Bennett explained that there’s an invisible line between great plays and bad plays and that players today are conditioned to make the great play, rather than the easy basket. He simplified it even more when he quoted Vince Lombardi, who said, football is about blocking and tackling. Bennett said, basketball is a game of catching and passing and that all good shots result in sureness and eliminating silliness.
“If you don’t respect the ball, catching and passing, you have no chance of being successful,” he said. “Play together, stop people, secure the ball and get a great shot. Then eliminate the one thing that will cause you to lose.”
Bennett also touched on the importance of team.
“Winning is great, but losing brings a team together because it forces you to feel things and work together,” he said. “You can touch greatness as a group. Individually, none of you can carry the team, but together, there’s a synergy that makes this possible. Don’t let anyone break that unity.”
“He really made you think about team unity and the greatness of a team,” Bradley said. “This is just a once in a lifetime opportunity to be with a team and there’s nothing else like it. And it’s true. These four years are going to be just an awesome time that you’re never going to be able to experience again.”