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Volume 70, Issue 85, Friday, February 4, 2005


Penders 'ready for a fight,' wants Guy V. Lewis in HOF

By Sam Khan Jr.
The Daily Cougar

Last week was a tough one for the Cougars as they were upset at home by Tulane and lost in Cincinnati. The Daily Cougar sat down with head coach Tom Penders to talk about that and other topics such as free throw shooting, his health, and Guy V. Lewis.

Sam Khan: Talk about what has transpired in the last week with the two losses to Tulane and Cincinnati. 

Tom Penders: Obviously we had a great opportunity to beat Tulane, but we came up short with the free throw shooting. It was a game we could have won. It's the only game we've played so far where we were favored and we lost. Those always hurt. You don't count any as automatic wins, but as they come along -- you know you're favored, you're at home, you haven't lost at home, and your free throw shooting hasn't been a problem at home -- and it hurts to lose them. It's just that simple. You can't win games if you don't shoot free throws. It happens to a lot of teams, it's not just us. We sure spend a lot of time on it is all I can say.

Khan: Free throw shooting has been a place where the team has struggled quite a bit. Is there a mental block with the free throw shooting or is it just a matter of keeping up the practice?

Penders: Well it's been my experience that you just have to keep working at it. It's like putting in golf. Sometimes, like the night before the South Florida game, I wouldn't even let our guys shoot them and we didn't do badly. 

It's got to be something that kids individually spend extra time on. We've only got so many hours per week to work with them, and we include it in practice every day, and create pressure situations for them. If we don't do that as coaches, we're not doing our jobs. It's been an area of frustration, but you can't say disappointing because these kids play so hard.

Khan: After your previous stint at George Washington, you took some years off and said you had experienced some burnout. How are you feeling mentally and physically now that you're back in the swing?

Penders: I'm feeling fine. I'm ready for a fight (laughs). I'm still working out. I'm thrilled every day I get. My wife tells me to be careful and get my rest. I stay up some nights going over film and writing down stuff too long, and she'll get on me. Other than that I'm fine. I've got a great staff -- they're terrific. I don't have to micromanage everything because they do such a good job.

Khan: So you're dealing with the ups and downs of the season just fine, I assume.

Penders: Yes. The day I'm not really down after a loss, it's time to toss it in -- that's the way I look at it. Talking to a lot of my coaching colleagues during my three years out, that's the common denominator that they all say: When you can't look forward to that next game, or when the losing doesn't affect you, then you can't help your players. You've got to be a leader. And I've been a leader since I was 14 years old, and nothing's changed.

Khan: One thing that I know you've been very vocal about and have put some effort into is lobbying to get former UH coach Guy Lewis into the Basketball Hall of Fame. What are your feelings on that whole situation?

Penders: It's a total injustice. The man has twice the credentials of many of those who are already in there. The five Final Fours are mind boggling. The records, the pioneer that he was here, what he did for African-Americans here at the University of Houston, he's always been considered a class individual. He didn't have any NCAA violations. He did it the right way, didn't cut corners, and I know how his former players feel about him. There's just no explanation for it.

I can take another coach who's in the Hall and look at his record and his NCAA record, and they'll fall far short of coach Lewis'. Then I ask, "How can this guy be in there and coach Lewis not?" You've got to right the wrongs that have been done in the past. There are some guys that are in there -- and I'm not saying that they don't belong -- but if they're in there, then they should have an entire room for Guy Lewis, never mind just getting him in there.

Khan: What do you think it would mean to the alumni, former players and the entire UH community if and when it finally happens?

Penders: I think anybody he's touched, anybody that knows him would be more than elated and feel like it's long overdue. I think it would be great for the University.


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