Jessie Kenlaw took over as the fourth head coach in program history prior to the 1990-91 season and posted a 104-123 (.458) record in eight seasons.
Kenlaw immediately led her new program to greater heights. In her first season, the Cougars reached the National Women's Invitational Tournament and earned their first-ever postseason victory in the first round. Her squad won 20 games and scored a school-record 81 points per game as Kenlaw was named National Women's Coach of the Year by the Black Coaches' Association.
The watershed year for Kenlaw and her Cougars came in 1991-92 when UH won 22 games and ended the season with the second-best winning percentage in school history (.733 in 30 games) while ranking as high as 11th in the nation in both national polls. In all, Houston was a regular in the polls for 14 consecutive weeks en route to its second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to being named head coach at Houston, Kenlaw served as the top assistant to head coach Greg Williams. She was also an assistant coach at Lamar in 1987-88 after coaching AAU basketball from 1982-87.
Before a professional playing career and her first collegiate coaching appointment, Kenlaw had begun her coaching career at Jenkins High School in Savannah, Ga. At Jenkins she was the head coach for basketball, softball and volleyball in addition to her teaching duties.
As a player, Kenlaw was a pioneer in the Women's Basketball Professional League and she played five seasons with three teams from 1978-82. In her rookie season, she helped the Houston Angels to the WPBL title. Also an outstanding amateur player, she was selected to the 1984 AAU All-America team at the AAU National Championships in El Paso, Texas.
Perhaps her longest-lasting legacy, though, is the prominent role the Springfield, Ga., native took in establishing a varsity women's basketball program at her alma mater, Savannah State, from which she received her physical education degree in 1975.
Spearheading the effort to have a team formed, Kenlaw earned the chance to star for the school's inaugural varsity team in 1974-75 and earned team captain and MVP honors. She also exemplified academic excellence, graduating from Savannah State with a 3.0 GPA.