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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Noble to remain head coach five more years

Fans grumbled after the Cougar baseball team finished 28-28 last season and missed the postseason for the third time in four years, but few expected head coach Rayner Noble to lose his job. Of course, no one expected Noble to receive a contract extension, either.

To the surprise of many, UH Athletics Director Dave Maggard extended Noble’s contract two more years, meaning that the skipper will be at the helm through 2012. Noble, who had three years left on his previous deal, signed the new contract Thursday. Terms were not disclosed.

The extension effectively puts to rest any claims that Noble is on the hot seat.

"I want everybody to know that I have total confidence in Rayner," Maggard told the Houston Chronicle. "I want everybody – players, alums and recruits – to know that we want Rayner Noble to be here at the University of Houston for a very long time. We had a little bit of a down year this season, but I think that was a bit of an aberration. I wanted Rayner to know that this is where we want him to be."

Few fans, however, are buying the extension. Some are still finding it hard to believe Noble could receive an extension after the Cougars ended the season by losing 11 of 16 games. They acknowledge that his overall rÈsumÈ is good – 457-333 record in 13 seasons, seven NCAA regional appearances, three NCAA super regional – but point to the recent string of failures as proof that Noble isn’t deserving of an extension. Why, they asked, does he receive one after yet another disappointing season?

A simple review of history may reveal the answer. Noble’s situation looks eerily similar to that of football coach Art Briles two years ago and men’s basketball coach Tom Penders in March, who also received extensions after disappointing seasons.

Briles’ 2005 squad topped out at 6-6, a campaign that included a few unexpected losses, some close calls and a 42-13 beatdown at the hands of Kansas in the Forth Worth Bowl. Yet, Maggard handed Briles a two-year contract extension a month after the season ended.

Penders led his squad to an 18-15 record last season, which was so-so considering the Cougars couldn’t even make the NIT after starting the season with expectations of an NCAA Tournament appearance. But less than a month after the season concluded, Penders had his contract extended another year.

Briles rewarded Maggard’s vote of confidence with a 10-4 season and the Cougars’ first Conference USA championship since 1996. Penders will have a shot to do the same this year with the return of three starters, including All C-USA first team guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver and veteran point guard Lanny Smith, who sat out most of last season with a foot injury.

Apparently, Maggard expects Penders and Noble to follow in Briles’ footsteps. Why else would he reward them for mediocrity?

Almond ready for next level Say what you will about Rice guard Morris Almond. He can’t create his own shot and may not have the flashiest defense, but this didn’t matter to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz care mostly about his silky, sweet shot and, because of that, made him a first-round selection in Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Almond, the No. 25 overall pick, was the lone Conference USA player drafted, and appears to be an instant fit for the Jazz, who were searching for a shooter. They couldn’t have found a better one than Almond, who was the nation’s third-leading scorer in Division I with 26.4 points per game as a senior. Last season, the 6-6, 215-pound guard shot 48.3 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from behind the arc.

Almond, the Conference USA Player of the Year, could start as a rookie with the Jazz releasing starting shooting guard Derek Fisher on Monday. And Lord knows Almond won’t have to worry about creating his own shot with rising point guard Deron Williams set to take that task off his hands.

Needless to say, Almond is content with his new team.

"I kind of had a hunch that I would go to Utah," Almond told the Houston Chronicle. "The Jazz fit my style, and I just think it’s a perfect fit."

Almond was vastly underrated coming out of Rice, which finished 16-16 last season and never surrounded him with any worthy talent during his final two seasons. In four years with the Owls, he averaged 15.1 points per game.

It says here the Jazz got a steal.

Shamblin goes back to work There are few breaks from softball for UH pitcher Angel Shamblin. The junior right-hander heads back to the circle this week as a member of the Gold Coast Hurricanes at the 2007 Canada Cup International Women’s Fastpitch Tournament in Surrey, British Columbia.

The 14-team tournament began Saturday and pool play will run through Thursday. The top four teams in each seven-team pool move on to the championship round on Friday and Saturday.

The Hurricanes started their tournament run with a 10-0 (3 inn.) loss to Canada on Sunday. The Hurricanes rebounded with a 9-3 win over the Dominican Republic on Monday.

Shamblin started the latter game and picked up the win after going 4 2/3 innings and allowing three runs on four hits with five strikeouts.

Odds and ends UH freshman sprinter Jason Perez will compete with the USA Junior Team at the 2007 Pan American Junior Athletics Championship, which runs Friday through Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. … The UH softball team added another newcomer for next season with Tuesday’s signing of outfielder Casey Willow, who attended Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz.

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