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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Men's Basketball

Dickey’s tenure marred by team’s inconsistency


Head coach James Dickey stepped down on Monday. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

Head coach James Dickey stepped down on Monday. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

James Dickey’s tenure featured ups, but probably had more downs.

He helped UH regain its inroads in in the fertile recruiting grounds of Houston, yet the talented players he convinced to play at Hofheinz Pavilion have not reached their full potential.

The Cougars improved each season, however, the team failed to reach the NCAA tournament during the four years Dickey patrolled the sideline.

UH defeated three top 25 teams this season, but still never attained a national ranking while Dickey was at the helm.

After four years as head coach of UH’s basketball program, UH announced that Dickey will step down to restore a work-life because a “family matter” will require more time and energy.

“This has been a difficult decision to make. I continually preach to my players about being an everyday guy, and the balance of your personal and professional life is a major part of it. With that being said, I have a family matter that requires my time and energy, and I will regretfully step down from my current position at the University of Houston,” Dickey said in a statement.

Though Dickey finished with a pedestrian 64-62 record at UH, he leaves the program in a better position than he found it.

Dickey’s predecessor had more success, but the six-year Tom Penders-era left UH disconnected with its host city.  Penders focused on recruiting junior college transfers instead of taking chances on local kids.

“If you have a local kid that doesn’t start, you have problems,” Penders said to the New York Times. “I got a good share of players from Houston. I’d rather get a marginal kid from Florida than Houston because if he doesn’t start, you get the A.A.U. coaches, the parents and the media on your back because he’s not playing.”

Dickey kept 5-star recruit Danuel House and 4-star talent Danrad Knowles from leaving the city, and the duo could be cornerstones for the Cougars during the next two seasons. Keeping talented Houston players in the city was a major part in his staff’s plan to return UH to national prominence.

He also guided the Cougars during a difficult transition when UH joined the American Athletic Conference this season, a conference that featured five ranked teams.

The Cougars held their own against talented teams at home, but were often outmatched in road contests and even lost to some less talented opponents.

Good deeds aside, winning was just not contagious enough during Dickey’s tenure. Neither of his teams ever had had a winning record in conference play even though three of Dickey’s teams played in the talent-depleted Conference USA.

Before UH took down then-No. 17 Connecticut, the best win during his tenure was a 73-72 victory against unranked Texas in the College Basketball Invitational last season.

The Cougars’ next coach should inherit a talented team and a program looking to make a return to its glory days when UH made three consecutive Final Fours in the late 80s. The Cougars will break ground in a $20 million new practice facility in May, and Hofheinz will undergo $77 million renovations as well.

“Coupled with the talented young men returning, facility upgrades in progress and membership in one of the premier basketball conferences in the nation, we feel this is a very attractive opportunity,” said UH Athletics Director Mack Rhoades.

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