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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Men's Basketball

‘The Show’ comes to an end


Tom Penders has been a fixture on the Cougars’ basketball sidelines for the last six seasons. His UH tenure, which includes a 121-77 record, is expected to end with his resignation today. | Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

Tom Penders made history last week when he coached the UH men’s basketball team in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992.

But he won’t get a chance to lead the Cougars on a return trip to the Big Dance.

Penders will announce his resignation at a press conference today inside the Athletics/Alumni Center, a person familiar with the situation said Sunday evening.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the move came as a result of a meeting between Penders and UH athletic director Mack Rhoades on Sunday afternoon.

Penders was not available for comment. Rhoades told the Chronicle “there will be an announcement regarding the future of the men’s basketball program in the near future.”

Today’s expected resignation comes three days after the Cougars’ 89-77 loss to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash. UH finished its season at 19-16, earning its ticket to the Big Dance after winning the Conference USA tournament to claim the league’s automatic bid.

Penders’ contract runs through 2012 and pays him $450,000 annually, including incentives. His base salary is $250,000, meaning that UH would have to pay him $500,000 to buy out the remaining two years of the deal.

Penders, 64, went 121-77 in six seasons at UH and led the Cougars to five postseason appearances. He is 648-438 in 32 seasons as a college head coach and has guided four different programs to the NCAA Tournament.

Penders is also the first coach to lead UH to 18 or more wins in six consecutive seasons. He directed UH to three seasons of 20-plus wins, the last one coming in 2008-09.

But despite the decent win totals, Penders struggled to get the Cougars into the NCAA Tournament. The best he could do before this season were two appearances in each the National Invitational Tournament and College Basketball Invitational, both considered second-tier tournaments.

With this year’s squad stumbling to a 15-15 regular-season record and tie for seventh place in C-USA, Penders’ eventual resignation or termination appeared to a foregone conclusion heading into the conference tournament.

The team had not put together a win streak longer than two games all season and did not appear to be any closer to reaching the NCAA Tournament under Penders’ watch. With Rhoades being in his first-year at the helm, many expected that he would replace Penders with a coach who could rejuvenate the Cougars’ program.

And then something improbable happened. Penders and the Cougars simply rejuvenated themselves in the C-USA Tournament.

UH won four consecutive games at the conference tournament from March 10-13 in Tulsa, Okla., including a win over regular-season champion and top-seeded UTEP in the title game, to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years.

The Cougars’ magical March ended with Friday’s loss to Maryland. But some of the madness remained as fans waited in anticipation to see whether Rhoades would allow Penders to hold onto to program’s keys for another season or look for a new driver.


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