WSU men's basketball coach Tony Bennett said he had exploratory talks with Indiana Saturday before deciding not to pursue the opening. He seemed ready to return to the Cougars for a third season as head coach.

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Tony Bennett, Washington State basketball coach, said Sunday he had “exploratory” talks Saturday night with Indiana about its vacant position but has decided not to pursue the job.

Bennett, reached at his home in Pullman, stopped short of saying he is turning his back on any overtures this offseason, but is believed to be ready to return to WSU for a third year as head coach in 2008-09.

Bennett, 38, talked with a representative of Indiana — believed to be athletic director Rick Greenspan — Saturday night, amid several unconfirmed reports that he had an offer on the table.

Asked if there was an offer, Bennett said, “I don’t even want to go there. You can draw your own conclusions on that.”

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Bennett then spoke Sunday morning with an Indiana representative and said he had opted not to pursue the job.

In pulling out of the Indiana search, Bennett decided against a program that has won five national titles and is believed to have made him its No. 1 target.

But the Hoosiers have had their share of recent controversies, from the firing of controversial coach Bob Knight to the hiring and subsequent dismissal of Kelvin Sampson. Sampson, a former WSU coach, was ousted in February for violations of NCAA restrictions on telephoning recruits. Sampson’s violations have posed the possibility of NCAA sanctions for the school, which is to appear before the NCAA committee on infractions in Seattle in June.

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