March 22, 2010
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON ATHLETICS PRESS CONFERENCE
Resignation of Men's Basketball Head Coach Tom Penders
Monday, March 22, 2010 Athletics/Alumni Center Houston, Texas
DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS MACK RHOADES
"Good afternoon, I'd like to thank everyone for being here today. Before we begin, I would like to recognize our vice chairmen of the Board of Regents, Mr. Jim Wise. Thank you for being here.
"With that said, here is Coach Tom Penders."
FORMER HEAD COACH Tom Penders
"Hello. First, thank you all for coming out. I see a lot of people I know and have worked with and would like to extend my appreciation to you in the media for the respect you have shown my over these past six years. Those years have really flown by. I hope to see you all at some Astros games real soon.
"I've written a few things down so I don't forget a couple of key things, and then the rest will just be off the cuff. Let me read this because I put a lot of thought into this.
"Despite speculation, the truth is I have decided to resign as the men's basketball head coach at the University of Houston. I may decide to pursue other opportunities in and outside of basketball - I'm not retiring. I am not retiring to spend more time with my family; I would definitely not last long if I did that.
"I came to the University of Houston in 2004 with the goal to get UH back into the NCAA tournament. We achieved this goal and now it is time for me to move on. The great Al McGuire was a very good friend of mine and told me a long time ago when I was thinking of staying at Fordham University or moving on to Rhode Island `Tom, you have already been there eight years, and now it is time to move on.'
"Very few coaches in this day and age have the opportunity to stay at a great place like the University of Houston for six years. Everything in life is timing. Mack and I had a great meeting yesterday; everything was positive. We discussed the future of the UH basketball program. He was willing to do anything to help me, and I was willing to do the same for him. The University has been more than kind to me in every single way.
"We achieved our goal and are moving on. This was a tremendous accomplishment for the players and coaching staff. I'd like to give some credit to them including coaches Jerry Hobbie, Kevin Lewis and Chris Howell, our secretary Melvina Brandley. Believe me, she is a key component and has been since the day I got here. I'd also like to thank John Houston. If there is a better trainer in America, professionally or in the college level, I haven't met them. Our staff was amazing.
"We will go down in history as the team that returned UH to national prominence. I'm so proud of our players, coaches and staff for that. I am confident that Mack Rhoades will be able to build on our success. We have set the bar very high, and we need to remember that. The bar is set at twenty wins a year, Conference USA title and the first NCAA tournament in decades. The bid wasn't an at large bid either; we had to earn it the hard way. We had to beat UTEP and Memphis twice to get to where we wanted to go. I'm very proud of what they have accomplished.
"I am also very proud of what we have accomplished academically. We do not have a player on academic probation now, or ever, during my six years here. We set this bar very high; there's no question. I want to thank Mack Rhoades for every day being a pleasure to work with. He's always available; you just need to go knock on his door, and he'll always find time for you. He did a lot to help this team achieve all that they did, and he doesn't receive any of the credit. He helped get our budget to where it should be.
"I'd also like to thank Dr. (Renu) Khator who is on her way back from Florida right now. Dr. Khator has been just an amazing help to me, this program and this university. Her dreams for Tier One are something I totally support and believe in.
"It's a fact that my deal has always been build, win, establish and move on. I don't know how to handle a job any other way. I have no experience taking over a successful program. Quite frankly, I don't like to hear about my predecessor and `This is the way he did it.' UH allowed me to put my stamp on everything I could. I appreciate that because you can't do your job if your hands are tied behind your back.
"I'd like to thank one person who is very dear to my heart and someone I have idolized my whole adult life and that is Coach Guy V. Lewis. He has been a guiding light, and I have championed his cause. I always enjoyed my time with Coach Lewis, whether it was seeing he and his wife at every game, phone calls to my direct line or whatever. He never had to say who it was when he called; I always knew and that will always be special to me.
"Also I want to thank a lot of the former players. I came here in the spring of 2004, and I can't thank enough the leader of that team, Andre Owens. We were picked last in a 14-team conference, and Andre led us right away to huge wins over LSU and Louisville, and we tied for fourth place in my first year. Brian Latham, a kid who not only starred here but like Owens left campus with a degree. Sergio deRandamie was a guy nobody wanted, a player who did all the dirty work. Oliver Lafayette, Robert McIver are two more guys I'd like to thank. This year's tri-captains Aubrey Coleman, Kelvin Lewis and Sean Coleman - I have never had better leaders than them. We went through hell this year. We didn't make excuses about Kendrick's broken legs or Zamal's mono or Aubrey's deep thigh bruise.
Those guys helped make this year special. I know everyone gave up on us. I don't listen to a lot of radio, but I heard what they were saying. We - being me, Mack and the team - were the only ones who believed in us. They proved it through their march through the tournament. It takes a special group of guys to win four games in four days. It's been a great run.
I want to reemphasize again that I am not retiring. I'm too young, have too much energy and too much passion, and I can't wait until the next challenge. Thank you.
On the biggest disappointment
"I can't think of any disappointments. Probably that not every player graduated but our rates have increased every single year. It's almost equal to the regular student body and it has never been that high. I spoke with a gentleman who was the first African-American basketball player to receive his degree from UH in 1974. We changed the culture around here and set the bar high."
On when he made the decision
"Not until yesterday. My wife and I talked about things during the year, but it was just speculation. I had two years left on my contract, and I was thinking how much more can I do. Mack and Dr. Khator are going to rebuild this thing and put up some impressive facilities. I hope that we have shown our alumni and Regents that Mack will get this done and take us to the next level. I'm totally confident in that. Throughout my career, I have always won and then moved on. When Mack and I spoke yesterday he asked me `What do you want to do' and I had to tell him I was looking for new challenges. I'm just glad that with the help of our senior administration and Mack that I was able to go out on my terms. I can't say one bad thing about how it was all handled; they were great people."
On the season
"This team is going to have a banner that will forever hang in Hofheinz or the next new arena as the first Conference USA champions. I hope they put their names on it because these kids deserve it. These kids are also going to get championship rings. Mack has promised he is going to do that for these kids. Those kids are the ones that put all the work and sacrifice into the program and still receive criticism and not enough of the credit. I get some of the criticism but that's what I'm paid to do."
On what he told the players
"We just met a little while ago although not everyone was there because of class. I told them how much I loved them and thanked them. I told them they are the most special group that I have ever coached. This was one of the best feelings I have ever had in coaching. This job was one of the most challenging jobs I have taken on, and I loved every minute of it."
On what changes need to be made for future Houston basketball
"That is up for Mack to address, not me, I am not the athletic director. I told Mack that I'm a coach and a teacher and I will look to you for guidance, and he has done that. He can't build a building in four months, but I know he's going to get it done. It was a great hire for the University of Houston when they hired Mack."
"These are the best possible circumstances to leave under. I feel like I can do no more and am very proud of all that has been accomplished. We have set the stage for whoever comes in here to meet and exceed where we are. That's what it's all about. Art Briles started it here, and he should not be forgotten. Kevin Sumlin has came in and moved it up another notch. I hope Coach Sumlin stays here the rest of his career; we're close buddies. You may see me down on the sidelines for games next year.
"Let me close with saying that I have had the pleasure of working with the best professional in the business and I have worked with a number of greats, but it was great to work with Tom Franklin over these past six years. There is no one out there that is more professional, has more knowledge or love of the game, love for this University and the kids. I want to thank you Tom.
"Thank you and good bye, but we will see you at some Astros games soon."
DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS MACK RHOADES
On what's next in the search
"We're certainly going to do due diligence. This is a big hire for this University in terms of where we are going to take the program. Tom did a great job at a very hard job. This job is hard compared to other schools. He moved the needle forward, and now it's our job to move the needle even further. We can do that. We're going to look at every candidate possible. So much of hiring a coach is about finding the right fit. There are a lot of candidates out there who can X and O and coach the game, but you need to look beyond that and see what is a good fit for your institution. We need to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and identify someone who can address that.
"As the director of athletics, I am very aware of what we don't have. Over time, we will work to get some of those resources. We're going to hire someone who understands that and that someone needs to work with our administration to get it done."
On who he hopes to hire
"I don't put limitations on candidates because you can put yourself in a corner when you do that. There are some great assistant coaches, former head coaches and current head coaches that we will look at. We'll look at all categories."
On the salary range
"In terms of salary, I'd feel good about the same range as Coach Penders was making. We have some flexibility there."
On if he has a short list of candidates
"You always have a list whether it's written down a paper or in your mind. Certainly you have some people that you have known through the years that you respect and who have done a good job. Let me be very clear about this. I have not spoken to anyone, former or current coach, head or assistant coach, whatsoever. I will start this process this afternoon but have absolutely not talked with anyone yet."
On Billy Gillispie (Former UTEP/Texas A&M/Kentucky head coach)
"Candidly at this point, I don't know. There is that possibility and people know Billy and I worked together. I was part of the hiring process when we were both at UTEP. I can't tell you if he's absolutely a candidate at this point. I just don't know yet.
On the buyout
"Tom alluded to it, but we really did have a very positive conversation. Our relationship has always been open, honest and in person. We talked about where the program was headed with him only having two years left on his contract and how that effects recruiting, where he wanted to be by then, all these different things. He certainly initiated the opportunity to resign and in terms of compensation, it would be premature to discuss it at this point. But we will absolutely come to an agreement about that. It's what he deserves."
On the facilities
"It's going to be a leap of faith for the next coach. We're going through the process right now with the feasibility study. We will let them know that we will do everything we can to invest in new facilities. That's all we can do at this point. We need to bring in someone who isn't afraid to work. It's not time-and-a-half here; its double-time. We need someone who is going to be creative, who can develop relationships, not only here in Houston and with high school coaches but with the donors and ticket holders. Those are going to be a few things to look at."
On the next coach recruiting the city of Houston
"I always break it down in terms of strengths and weaknesses. One of our greatest assets here is the city of Houston and the local talent. We need to do the best we can to exploit that and address that. If you look at Coach Sumlin, I think 11 of 25 of those players were from Houston. I'm a big believer in working with what's available in your backyard and that is something we will consider."
On the next coach's expectation level
"When you hire a head coach, it's a partnership. What you do is hire the right person and then you sit down and develop the plan together. We will sit down and discuss what we need to do to make postseason play a regular occurrence and competing for conference championships."
On a timeframe for making the new hire
"The best answer I can provide is sooner rather than later. Right now with the tournament going on, potential candidates can still be involved in that and certainly we will be sensitive to that. We're not going to wait. We're going to be aggressive."