After leading the University of Houston men's basketball team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly two decades, head coach Tom Penders announced his resignation Monday afternoon during a press conference at the Athletics/Alumni Center.
In six seasons at Houston, Penders compiled a 121-77 (.611) record with postseason appearances in five of those years. The recent 2009-10 campaign featured a remarkable run at the GMC Sierra Conference USA Championship in which the Cougars won four games in as many days, capped by an 81-73 win against No. 1 seed and 21st-ranked UTEP on March 13.
The Cougars competed as the No. 13 seed at the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region in Spokane, Wash., falling 89-77 to No. 4 seed and 20th-ranked Maryland on Friday night.
That was the 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and the 20th postseason appearance for Penders during his 36-year career. He finished the 2009-10 season with a 648-438 (.597) career record.
Penders became the fourth head coach in Houston history to lead the Cougars into the NCAA Tournament, joining Alden Pasche, Pat Foster and the legendary Guy V. Lewis. He also was the only coach in school history to lead the Cougars to at least 18 wins in six straight years.
"Contrary to recent speculation, I have decided to resign as the men's head basketball coach at the University of Houston and may pursue other opportunities in and out of basketball," Penders said. "I came to the University of Houston with the goal of returning UH to the NCAA Tournament. We achieved this goal, and now it is time to for me to move on. This was a tremendous accomplishment for our players and coaching staff. We will go down in history as the team that brought UH back to national basketball prominence, and I am so proud of my players and staff."
"I appreciated the opportunity to work with Tom during these last nine months and am grateful for his six years of dedication to the University of Houston men's basketball program. He took over a team that struggled to consistently win in the past and led it to a Conference USA championship and the NCAA Tournament." Houston director of athletics Mack Rhoades said. "We wish Tom, Susie and their family all the best in their future endeavors."
While known for his teams' high octane offenses that routinely ranked among the best in the country, Penders' Cougar squads were equally adept with the ball in its hands. Houston ranked among the top-20 national leaders in fewest turnovers per game in each of the last four years, including a school-record-low 9.0 giveaways per contest in 2009-10, second-best in the country.
In 2009-10, Penders guided senior guard Aubrey Coleman, who is poised to become Houston's first national scoring champion with 25.6 points per game and was a two-time All-Conference USA First-Team honoree.
Houston was the seventh stop for Penders during his career, making him one of only three coaches in NCAA Division I history to achieve that milestone. The Stratford, Conn., native also moved into the top-25 NCAA Division I all-time leaders in career wins (648) and career games (1,086).
Prior to joining the Cougar program, he served three years as a radio/television analyst for ESPN and Westwood One Radio. He previously served as head coach at Texas (1988-98), Rhode Island (1986-88), Fordham (1978-86), Columbia (1973-78) and Tufts (1971-74).
Rhoades said the search for Penders' successor would begin soon.
"Our job now is to hire the person who can build upon this success," Rhoades said. "To do that, we must not only hire an outstanding head coach but also make a significant investment in all areas of our program."
"I am confident that Mack Rhoades will be able to build on our success, and I wish him and the program all the best," Penders said.