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Eagles fill basketball position

Scott Bennett of Kissimmee Poinciana will replace boys coach Greg O'Connell.

Springstead's search for a boys basketball coach ended Tuesday when Kissimmee Poinciana coach Scott Bennett, 39, accepted the Eagles' offer.

"He's come from some very good programs, and he has a reputation for working well with kids," Springstead athletic director Pat McCoy said Wednesday. "He's a strict disciplinarian, and he just seemed to fit in well with us in a lot of ways."

Bennett has just one year of head coaching experience, but before his year at Poinciana, he was an assistant coach and head junior varsity coach for two years at Orlando Edgewater, which reached the state final four in 1998. Bennett's JV team went 32-0 under his direction.

"Age was not a concern for us," said McCoy, who said Bennett will have to pass a reference check before the post is officially his. "He's got enough experience to be a strong head coach."

Poinciana athletic director Chuck Hitt, who had not been told of Bennett's decision to leave, said the first-year coach had laid the groundwork for a solid program after inheriting a team that went 5-23.

"He brought in discipline, brought in a different style of basketball than they've seen here in the past," Hitt said. "Everytime I'd walk down to the gym, they'd always be working on a technique of some kind. He did a good job of teaching them the fundamentals of the game."

Bennett could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and while Hitt could not recall Poinciana's record under Bennett this season, he said it was better than the school had posted in the previous three seasons. Before moving to Orlando in 1997, Bennett had coached in Indiana and Illinois.

McCoy said he expects Bennett to meet with Springstead's players sometime in the next week or two before moving to the area early this summer.

His hiring marks the end of a lengthy search, which saw an original list of 19 candidates pared to four finalists, only to see all four withdraw from consideration. McCoy reopened the search two weeks ago and said that while Bennett wasn't on the original list, he stood out among the second group.

"His stuff came in after we had scrapped the initial search," McCoy said. "His head coach in Orlando spoke extremely highly of him, and I don't think (Poinciana) was the situation he had hoped for. I think we're more of what he's looking for."

The only other candidate interviewed this month was Cross City Dixie County coach Randy Reed.

Bennett replaces Greg O'Connell, who retired from coaching in February after winning 366 games in 23 years with the Eagles.

Springstead returns just one starter, junior forward Steve Ferguson, from this year's district champions.