Penders' seventh stop as coach: Houston
HOUSTON -- Tom Penders was hired Tuesday to coach at Houston, the once-powerful program that hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game in 20 years.
Penders and the university agreed to a five-year contract, but terms weren't finalized, officials said. Penders, a coach at Texas for 10 years, replaces Ray McCallum, who was reassigned March 8 after going 44-72 in four seasons.
"I feel like I am coming back home. I am excited about this opportunity here at the University of Houston," Penders said. "It is both a dream and a desire of mine to bring the Cougars back to national prominence and compete for a national championship."
Penders, 58, is best known for resuscitating Texas after his arrival in 1988 after successful stints at Tufts, Columbia, Fordham and Rhode Island. He led Texas to a 208-110 record and eight NCAA tournaments, including a regional final in 1990.
"We feel very fortunate to have someone of Tom Penders' caliber as our coach," athletic director Dave Maggard said. "He has been to the NCAA tournament numerous times and has a breadth of experience at the collegiate level."
Penders is the seventh UH coach but the fifth since the revered Guy Lewis retired in 1986 after 30 seasons and five Final Four appearances. Pat Foster, who followed Lewis, took the Cougars to three NCAA tournaments and went 142-73 in seven seasons.
Penders said he was a high school coach in Connecticut when he first met Lewis.
"I took my high school team in 1970 to Madison Square Garden to watch the Cougars play, and to watch what they did was truly impressive," he said.
Since Foster, Alvin Brooks, Clyde Drexler and McCallum combined to go 117-195 with no tournament bids. The Cougars have not won an NCAA tournament game since the 1984 semifinal.
Penders promised he'd bring his trademark up-tempo offense and pressing defense to Houston.
"Don't go to the concession stand during the game, or you're going to miss a lot of action," he said.
Penders resigned from Texas in 1998 after his second losing season with the Longhorns. The move came amid a rift with some prominent players and a lawsuit that accused Penders of being involved in the public release of a player's grades. The suit was settled when Texas agreed to pay $7,500 in legal fees and admitted no wrongdoing.
Penders moved on to George Washington but resigned in 2001 citing "burnout" following allegations of players making unauthorized long-distance calls. He has worked as a broadcast analyst since.
Maggard said he had thoroughly investigated all candidates, making sure they were clean as far as the NCAA was concerned. With Penders, Maggard even checked with the Texas attorney general's office to verify there was nothing outstanding from his 10-year tenure with the Longhorns.
Penders met all day Monday with Maggard, UH president Jay Gogue and Thad "Bo" Smith, chairman of the UH system's board of regents.
Penders said he was happy to be moving to Houston, along with some other noted sports figures.
"If Roger (Clemens) and Andy Pettitte think this is a good place to finish up their careers, it's good enough for me," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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