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Legendary hoops coach hosts clinic at NIU

September 1, 2011

Dick Bennett talks to Huskie coachesTaking her father’s advice is something Northern Illinois women’s basketball head coach Kathi Bennett has done her whole life.

It’s helped her become a very successful Division I head coach, just like her father, the legendary Dick Bennett.

On Wednesday morning, Bennett was able to let some of her colleagues in on her father’s insight as Dick hosted a coaching clinic at the NIU Convocation Center. The near three-hour session focused mainly on Dick’s signature Pack Defense.

“It was an idea that one of the assistants from Auburn talked about because they wanted to learn about the Pack,” said Bennett. “We talked over the summer and they wanted to visit with me about it. From there, just talking to coaches, a lot of them had interest over the summer in learning about the Pack. I figured we had enough interest, why not get the guy who designed it? So I asked him if he’d be interested and the list of coaches who wanted to be involved kept growing.”

Bennett’s entire staff attended, along with first-year NIU men’s basketball head coach Mark Montgomery and Kent Dernbach, director of basketball operations.

Outside of the NIU hoops staff the list of attendees included Valparaiso women’s head coach Keith Freeman and his staff; North Central women’s head coach Michelle Roof and assistant Debbie (Teske) Whitman, who was a Huskie standout player from 1991-93 and a 2005 NIU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee; Milwaukee women’s head coach Sandy Botham and her staff; Auburn women’s head coach Nell Fortner and her staff; and Prairie Ridge High School (Crystal Lake, Ill.) men’s coach Ray Card.

With such a diverse group, Dick was able to share his coaching concepts that helped him earn over 300 wins and six NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four trip with the 2000 Wisconsin Badgers. Specifically, he expanded the knowledge of his Pack Defense, which not only made him a highly successful coach, but also helped turn his daughter into a successful coach as well.

As she has accumulated more than 300 wins herself and helped quickly rebuild several programs, Bennett pinpoints her father’s defense-first philosophy as the prime reason in being able to turn around a program so fast.

“It’s just a way to play defense, and it’s certainly not the best way, I’m not saying that,” said Bennett. “It’s a way to play that I really feel allows you to compete immediately. It eliminates losing because in the Pack you have some non-negotiables that your team is never going to do; You aren’t going to give up easy baskets; You try to take away lane penetration. It gives you a chance to really do well on the defensive glass because of how you are positioned. It also puts you in a position to contest shots. There are more specifics to it, but those are things that really help be competitive right away. That’s why I really like it.”

While the coaches in attendance felt good leaving campus with valuable basketball knowledge, they weren’t the only ones that benefitted from the clinic. Dick also benefitted as he was able to do what he did best throughout his career – coach. Although it wasn’t exactly the type of coaching that won him more than 300 games, he passed along some of his wealth of knowledge that will help the coaches who listened win hundreds of more games. And he had a chance to help out his daughter, which is something a father always gets joy out of.

“They seemed to enjoy it,” said Dick. “I shared with them some of my concepts and felt good doing it. Anytime I can help my son or daughter, I want to do that.”

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