Former Cougar greats are closer to home
It was Chandi Jones’ father who convinced her to attend UH when she was being recruited by more high-profile programs. She was pursued by legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt — who reminded Jones of her father — and perennial top 25 programs like the University of Texas.
Jones’ dad, David, knew puzzles enticed her, so he presented a challenge.
“He asked me, ‘Why go to an established program when you can go to UH and create your own footprint?’” Jones said.
She did leave a mark.
Jones was named the conference’s female athlete of the decade and was selected three times as Conference USA Player of the Year. She finished her career third in UH overall and first in women’s scoring.
For Jones, returning to UH after her professional career concluded last season was a natural progression.
David was an assistant women’s basketball coach at UH from 1999 to 2006. In an interview with WNBA.com, Jones said the defining moment in her life was “playing for the same team my father coached at the University of Houston.”
This year, UH competed in the David Jones Classic, named in the late coach’s honor, for the second consecutive season.
Jones works as an administrative coordinator for the women’s basketball team. She is one of several former great players who have returned to UH after their days as student-athletes concluded.
45 years later
Elvin Hayes, like Jones, returned to the sport he impacted during his tenure as a player.
Before each UH basketball game, Hayes scouts opponents the same way he did in 1968.
By watching pregame warm-ups, he can tell which players are the other team’s best shooters and who’s more prone to miss 3-pointers by watching their form. Hayes can surmise which players will challenge the Cougars’ defense and rebound with athleticism and the big men who have good post moves with their back to the basket — all before the opening tipoff.
In 1968, Hayes was the best player in college basketball — he was a consensus National Player of the Year selection after averaging 36.8 points and 18.9 rebounds per game — and used the information to decide how much competition the opposing team would provide and which opponents would be toughest to guard.
The habits he picked up as a player help him in a job that connects him to the University, where he was a successful player. Hayes does color commentary for the UH basketball team alongside play-by-play announcer UH alumnus Tom Franklin. He joined the Cougar radio team for the 2010 to 2011 basketball season.
Since becoming vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics in 2009, Mack Rhoades said he has focused on making UH Athletics a family environment where both former and current players can thrive.
“It’s important that we develop a relationship with (student athletes) while they’re here but also continue that relationship,” Rhoades said. “You can ask our staff — whether it is an administrator or a coach — family is extremely important.”
Rhoades said part of his job is making sure student athletes are ready for life, as most won’t become a professional athlete.
“It’s extremely important that we win games and win championships, but it’s even more important that we do a great job of developing our student athletes and (that) they’re successful when they leave here,” Rhoades said.
“If you look at the recent coaching hires over the past three years, all of them have been a part of a successful program … but the fiber that connects them all is their (dedication) to the student athlete’s well-being, not just in competition.”
Women’s basketball head coach Todd Buchanan enjoys the family aspect of the Athletics Department. The walls of Buchanan’s office bear a collage of photos of Buchanan’s son, Colton, 3 years old, and two autographed UH jerseys of Buchanan’s former players. Former players Jones and Sancho Lyttle played professional basketball.
Brittany Mason, one of Buchanan’s former players, never left the program. She graduated in 2010 and immediately enrolled in graduate school and became the women’s basketball team’s first-ever graduate assistant. Before this season, Buchanan offered her the opportunity to become the team’s video coordinator.
“They must love me,” Mason said. “I’ve been here six years.”
Buchanan, who was an assistant coach at UH before becoming the head coach at Houston Baptist, said a point of emphasis upon returning to UH as head coach was making sure the women’s basketball team was a family by generating an environment to which former players would want to return. To Buchanan, the ultimate compliment for a coach is a successful coaching tree, especially if the branches are former players.
“You feel good when you walk in and out of the building and know that people have your same philosophy, and we’re going to be family at the end of it as well,” Buchanan said.
Like father, like son
Joseph Young has been around UH basketball his entire life. His dad, Michael, is an all-time great whose jersey is retired and hangs in the rafters at Hofheinz Pavilion. Young grew up around the Athletics Department partly because Michael has spent so much of his life around UH.
Michael led the team in scoring during the Phi Slama Jama era, playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. As retirement from playing professionally overseas became eminent, Michael’s relationship with Drexler brought him back to UH as an assistant coach when Drexler was hired as head coach. Michael stuck around after Drexler was fired and now serves as the director of basketball operations.
“You can never beat family. To come back home with an Elvin Hayes, a Carl Lewis, a Clyde Drexler — it’s really a blessing in disguise to be right back here to help the University get back up to the starring days,” Michael said.
During his days as an assistant coach, Michael worked with Jones to improve her game before and after practice. All the while, Young looked on.
As a redshirt sophomore guard, Young averages 17.6 points per game and, like his dad, leads the team in scoring. Now he’s all grown up.
The Tellez family has been around the track and field program for 36 years. Tom Tellez was named track and field head coach in 1976. During his tenure, he coached nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis and three-time NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist Leroy Burrell.
The outdoor track facility is named after Lewis and Tellez, and Burrell is the track and field head coach. Lewis is also a volunteer coach.
Kyle Tellez, Tom’s son, has been on the track and field staff for 21 years. During the last 14 years, he has served as the associate head coach.
“My family has such a vested interest in the University that it felt right to continue the Tellez tradition,” Kyle said.
Kyle has left the program only once since beginning college. After his freshman season, Kyle transferred to Sam Houston State. He returned to UH after an injury derailed his track career. After graduation, Kyle became a graduate assistant and worked with Tom, who was still the head coach at the time.
A family of coaches
Ted Pardee, like Kyle, had a father who was a legendary coach at UH. Ted’s dad, Jack, piloted the run-and-shoot offense. Jack was at the helm of the program in 1989 when former UH quarterback Andre Ware broke many of the major passing records in NCAA history and became the University’s only Heisman Trophy winner.
Jack left the program in 1990 to coach the Houston Oilers, but Ted and his daughter, Ellie, are still around. Ted does color commentary for the football games, and Ellie, a communications sophomore, works as an intern with the Athletics Department.
“My dad played linebacker for my grandfather for three out of four years. UH has always been such a huge part of my entire family,” Ellie said in an email. “No one in my family has gone to Texas A&M, my grandad’s alma mater. The last father-son duo at UH was Bum Phillips when he coached Wade.”
Jack followed Bill Yeoman, perhaps the most famous UH coach. Yeoman coached the Cougars for 25 years and won 160 games. UH had 17 winning seasons while Yeoman was head coach.
Yeoman is now the development officer of Cougar Pride, a team that helps the Athletics Department secure gifts and promotes season tickets.
Yeoman will continue to be involved in the program, leading the Pride’s efforts to sell 30,000 season tickets for the football stadium that will open in 2014.
He said he’s always been around, even after his coaching tenure expired.
“Well, son, I only left for about a month,” Yeoman said.