June 27, 2008
HOUSTON - University of Houston men's basketball head coach Tom Penders recently was named one of six prominent sports figures for induction into the Fairfield County (Conn.) Sports Hall of Fame.
Entering his fifth year at the head of the Cougar bench in 2008-09, Penders is one of just 28 NCAA Division I coaches to reach 600 wins during his career and enters this season with 608 victories.
He has established a name for himself in reviving college programs, including Columbia, Fordham, Rhode Island and Texas.
During his UH tenure, Penders has guided the Cougars to 81 wins with postseason appearances in three of four years. In 2007-08, Penders led UH to a 24-10 record - the program's most wins since 1991-92 - and a berth in the semifinals of the inaugural College Basketball Invitational.
Penders joined the UH program in 2004-05, inheriting a team that had won only 18 games in a season once in the previous 11 years. Since he took over, the Cougars have won at least 18 games for four consecutive seasons.
The Stratford High alum started his basketball coaching career as a high school coach in Bridgeport for three years and landed his first college job at Tufts in 1971. He was elected to the New England Hall of Fame in 2006.
A talented all-around athlete during his playing days, Penders also played minor league baseball for one season, was a five-time national champion fastpitch softball player with the Raybestos Cardinals and is the only player to captain both the UConn baseball and basketball teams in the same season.
Two inductees were selected in each of the three HOF Wings: Jackie Robinson Professional, James O'Rourke Amateur and J. Walter Kennedy Community Service. Penders joined Brien McMahon, basketball and soccer head coach Ralph King in the Community Service wing.
National Hockey League player Chris Drury (Trumbull) and Tim Teufel (Greenwich) - an 11-year Major League Baseball player were named to the Professional wing, while New Haven basketball star Gary Liberatore (New Canaan) and Central High School star athlete and coach Lou Saccone (Bridgeport) were selected for the Amateur wing.
The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will recognized the newly elected Hall of Famers with an induction ceremony at the Commission's Fourth Annual SportsNight awards dinner on Oct. 20 at the Greenwich Hyatt.
With the six new inductees, the Hall of Fame has now inducted 27 county sports legends. The list of previously enshrined FCSHOF inductees includes:
JACKIE ROBINSON PROFESSIONAL WING
2005 - Julius Boros (Fairfield), Kristine Lilly (Wilton), Calvin Murphy (Norwalk), Steve Young (Greenwich)
2006 - Bobby Valentine (Stamford), Mo Vaughn (Norwalk)
2007 - Mike Gminski (Monroe), Charles Nagy (Fairfield)
JAMES O'ROURKE AMATEUR WING
2005 - Dorothy Hamill (Riverside), Bruce Jenner (Newtown), Bill Toomey (New Canaan)
2006 - Joan Joyce (Stratford), Walter Luckett (Bridgeport)
2007 - Jerry Courville, Sr. (Norwalk), Donna Lopiano (Stamford)
J. WALTER KENNEDY COMMUNITY SERVICE
2005 - Dave Bike (Bridgeport), Jerry McDougall (Trumbull)
2006 - Ray Barry (Norwalk), Frank Vieira (Bridgeport)
2007 - Nick Koules (Stamford), Bruce Webster (Bridgeport)
The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame is housed at the University of Connecticut Stamford Campus in downtown Stamford. The Hall of Fame is open 6 days a week from 9 am-5 pm.
The Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc. is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that promotes fitness, an active healthy lifestyle and personal development through sports. The Commission, other than the executive director position, is an all-volunteer group dedicated to creating and supporting programs for fitness awareness education, primarily centered on the 110,000 school age children in the 15 communities it serves. For more information, go to FairfieldCountySports.com.