Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on Tom Penders' Resignation

John Marine | 3/22/2010 06:45:00 PM | | | |
UPDATE (4/1/2010): Former Texas Tech coach, James Dickey, was recently hired as head coach of the University of Houston's men's basketball team. All the best to James Dickey.

The University of Houston made its first men's basketball tournament appearance since 1992 recently. Tom Penders, who is often nicknamed as "Turnaround Tom," turned around another program when he became the coach for the Houston Cougars. In six seasons, he helped turn around the Cougars. While it may not be likely the Houston Cougars will ever return to their glorious form under Phi Slamma Jamma or during the Guy V. Lewis days, but at least we were relevant again after 18 years since our previous tourney experience. I'm not a University of Houston student, but I am a big University of Houston fan.

I have to say that I am both saddened, but also upset about this. You take a team to the tournament and playing against other tournament teams. Making the NCAA tournament is basically what defines you as a head coach and as a program. I wonder why he would so such a thing. I mean, come on now- we beat MEMPHIS in the first round of the C-USA tournament! We'd go on to finally win the Conference USA tournament. Win your conference tournament = go to the Big Dance!

One thing about the tourney is that if you aren't a very good team, I am one who believes getting a chance like this gives you a certain psychology that you can be better than you've ever been. You find something within yourself that makes you want to achieve bigger and better things. Take my beloved Houston Astros. More importantly, the 2005 Houston Astros. We were a piece of crap team that still managed to get on a run to win the NL Wild Card, then become National League champions. We'd get swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series, but at least becoming champions of the NLCS gave us hope that we can compete in the World Series.

Back to UH for a moment. The thing that gets me upset about all of this is that he took my beloved Houston Cougars to the tournament, played against Maryland (I thought we could have won had we been better at the free throw line and in shooting)... then Tom Penders resigns? Did he feel like after accomplishing what he's tried to do what past coaches before him since 1992, that he could do no more?

Why am I Confused?
Turnaround Tom did what he had to do as his players picked up the slack. We didn't beat Maryland. I thought just making the NCAA tournament is enough to stay around long enough. Apparently not for one Tom Penders. I love Tom Penders, but why he would resign is incredibly strange. There are only a few reasons why I would understand resignation- uninterested in coaching, health problems, love/relationship issues, and things like that. Making the NCAA tournament is an accomplishment. It means you turn a team into a team that has a chance to win a National Championship.

Why am I Upset?
This goes back to me thinking of an "Always Hate Houston" concept. It's almost as if hardly anyone wants to make any Houston team a winner. I always have to hear ESPN and (sometimes) CBS bitch about North Carolina State beating Phi Slamma Jamma in 1983 and then Georgetown beating the same team the following year, both for National Championships. If you're not part of a team to win a championship or help a team get to championship glory, then just get the hell out of town and let people who WANT to win come in and work their asses off to make something of themselves and the team they play for! Maybe Houston (as in the city of Houston) teams just haven't been all that good or good enough to win here. The exceptions are the Houston Rockets of the mid-1990s, the Houston Dynamo in their first two seasons in Houston, the Rice University baseball team, and Houston-based sportscar racing teams Risi Competizione and Krohn Racing.

I guess I get upset that we can't accomplish championship fame in the major sports and in high-end college sports sometimes.

I do hope the next University of Houston's men's basketball coach can continue where Tom Penders left off. We need to be relevant again. The wait between 2010 and 1992 is too long for a once-successful basketball team. That's why Houston's tournament appearance, while short-lived, was a great plus for UH men's basketball. I think we should be able to compete often for tournament bids. We should be in the Bracketbuster challenges to contend with teams in the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. This past season was a great one for the University of Houston, and I can only hope we can consistently compete for NCAA tournament bids. The absolute long shot for next season would be if the Houston Cougars made March Madness and reached the Final Four. And where is the 2011 Final Four at? Houston! It's a long shot, but imagine if UH made the Final Four and played at the site of next year's Final Four. It would be a glorified home game for the University of Houston!

I do wish Tom Penders the absolute best in all of his endeavors, but I do hope the next UH men's basketball coach can pick up where Tom Penders left off to where we can finally be relevant again. UH football has been made relevant again even before Kevin Kolb got drafted in the NFL. UH Softball had a great season a few years ago. The women's basketball team did very well in the mid-2000s. Now it's time for UH men's basketball to be and remain relevant again.

Congratulations on an amazing season! The Houston Cougars have roared again!

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John B. Marine said...

Coach Penders is a close friend of mine. The issue is UH's funding and committment to the athletic program. The facilities are a joke-the locker room is condemned, the mosquitoes and rats are a nuissance. The players can't even shower at Hoffheinz, and there is no money in the recruiting budget. Until UH makes a committment to fund athletics no coach, however talented, will have any continuing success. I agree that Tom did alot to help, but you also need to understand that at his age, in the absence of genuine commitment from the university, he probably did not think there was much hope that greater accomplishments were ahead.

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