According to Sports by Brooks, Tom Penders has been given the option of being reassigned, retiring or being fired.
The report isn’t a shock. Despite a miracle run to the C-USA tournament title, Penders’ Cougars had flattened out in terms of local interest. It’s consistent with what we have been hearing from sources close to the program.
Penders has spent the past few months responding to questions about his future by saying how much he had been able to accomplish despite the lack of facilities.
Steve Campbell had a nice piece today that pretty much scrawled the writing on the wall.
If the report is indeed true, Penders’ tenure at UH will have been a success, albeit a minor one.
Penders went 121-77 in his UH tenure. In the six years before Penders, the Cougars went 63-112.
The program was quite simply dead. He didn’t quite revive it, but he did at least make it a little less dead.
The Cougars will need to take a big step forward. Former A&M and Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie’s name will be the first to come up.
Gillispie got UTEP and A&M to the tournament before failing at Kentucky, which is a much different animal. Despite that, he would be a perfect fit at UH, the kind of coach the Cougars need.
Despite Penders’ constant intimations that it is impossible to win at UH, the job as it is will not be a bad one.
Whoever gets it will eventually get better facilities to work with, with an AD in Mack Rhoades who specializes in that.
He will get a fertile recruiting base within driving distance, and a conference that is there for the taking with Memphis taking a step back.
He will also find a fickle fan base, but one that will fill the house if given a reason.
That reason will require more local players, and most importantly, winning basketball on a consistent basis.
Penders was able to win, but not quite enough.
The Penders era — if it is indeed over — won’t be remembered as one of brilliance. But the Cougars were consistent. In the end, Penders accomplished the baseline for what UH should be. He never really mined the high school ranks locally, and relied heavily on JUCO players. But he won.
Just not in spectacular fashion. When Penders was forced out at Texas, Rick Barnes came on and took the program even further.
It’s time for UH to take another step forward. The Cougars will never be what they were under Guy V. Lewis. But they can become more than they are.
Apparently Rhoades has decided it is time for that to happen.