Friday, March 20, 2009

Time for Tom Penders to move on

Wednesday evening, I watched what could only be described as a joke.

The University of Houston Cougars were playing a postseason basketball game. Not in the NCAA Tournament (it's been 17 years since the Coogs, a team that once went to the Big Dance with regularity and have five Final Four appearances to their name, last went to the NCAA tourney), or even the NIT, which has traditionally been the "consolation" tournament for schools that had decent seasons but who weren't quite good enough to make it into the 65-team NCAA tourney, but in a third-tier tournament called the "College Basketball Invitational."

The Cougars, 21-11 going into the game, were playing Oregon State, a team with a losing record, on the road.

And the Cougars, who could only manage to shoot an abysmal 28 psercent from the floor, lost to this Oregon State team with a losing record in this third-rate "tournament," 45-49.

That's right. The final score was 45-49. High school girls' basketball games usually manage to score more points than that.

I wont even go to the amateur video production and the utterly clueless announcers. Why was this crap televised to begin with?

After five years of head coach Tom Penders (and his scatter-brained "throw up the three!" offense, his lack of anything resembling a defense, his lack of team continuity from one season to the next and his plethora of excuses every time his team loses), this is what UH basketball fans (those of us who still exist) get: a 21-12 record that's not nearly as impressive once all the out-of-conference cupcakes the Coogs played are considered, and a 45-49 loss to a 13-17 Oregon State team in the first round of an dubious basketball "tournament" for teams that couldn't even make it into the NIT.

In other words, a joke. A big, fat joke.

While it is technically correct to say that the program is better now than it was when he got here, to compare Penders' "success" with the abomination that was the Brooks-Drexler-McCallum Era of Suckitude - i.e., the worst stretch in the history of the UH basketball program - is to set the bar really, really low. It's damning with faint praise. Especially when one considers that the program is no closer than going to the Big Dance today than it was after Penders' first season at the helm. There's no reason to expect any improvement next season, either, as Chron blogger sarcoog2010 writes:

Next year will be no different. It doesn't matter if we return everyone and the water boy, we'll still have the same issues. We still take too many three-pointers and we don't have a guy who can consistently hit them. Our post players will never be consistently involved and Qa'rraan Calhoun will remain as afraid of contact as an 8 year old ballerina. Our half court offense will remain as nonexistent as a diet in the Rosie O' Donnell household.

The fact is that we will not be a tournament team next year, or if Penders sticks around even longer (God forbid). The fact is that we will continue to lose the games that matter and some we should not if some radical changes aren't made. I don't foresee any changes, which is truly the modus operandi of this staff.

Your Houston Cougar basketball program is becoming less and less relevant every day under this staff. If you want to give me the attendance or facilities excuse then you're seriously part of the problem too. I refuse to believe that the best I can expect as a Houston fan is 21 wins and an appearance in a made up tournament.

While Penders did take the program from "bad" to "mediocre" and deserves recognition as such, he has not gotten, nor will he get, the program from "mediocre" to "good." Tom Penders has long since reached the plateau of what he can accomplish here at Houston. It's time for him to retire and for UH athletics to move on.

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