Basketball Coaches Penders and Curl Step Down

March 23, 2010

The conclusion of the 2009-2010 basketball season marks the end of an era for two University of Houston coaches—Tom Penders and Joe Curl.

Penders has resigned as head coach of the men’s basketball program. Curl will step down as head coach of the women’s basketball program due to health reasons. A nationwide search to fill the positions will begin immediately. 

In six seasons at UH, Penders compiled a 121-77 (.611) record with postseason appearances in five of those years. The recent 2009-2010 campaign featured a remarkable run at the GMC Sierra Conference USA (C-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.

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.

“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.

Penders became the fourth head coach in UH history to lead the Cougars into the NCAA Tournament. He also was the only coach in school history to lead the Cougars to at least 18 wins in six straight years. In 2009-2010, Penders guided senior guard Aubrey Coleman, who is poised to become Houston's first national scoring champion with 25.6 points-per-game average. He was a two-time All-Conference USA First-Team honoree.

“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,” director of athletics Mack Rhoades said. “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.”

Curl is the longest-tenured coach in the program’s history, pacing the sidelines for the past 12 seasons. He compiled a 193-167 (.536) record and led the Cougars to five postseason appearances, including this season’s trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).

“This season has been really difficult for me to keep up with everything for health reasons, so it’s time for me to step aside and heal up,” Curl said. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity I’ve had here at the University of Houston. It has been a great fit for me.”

Curl took over the women’s basketball program prior to the 1998-1999 season after previous coaching stops at Trinity Valley Community College, Stephen F. Austin and Blinn College.

“I really want to thank Joe for his 12 years of service to the University of Houston and his commitment to our student-athletes,” Rhoades said. “The program has enjoyed great success during his tenure and been a source of pride for our department. I want to wish Joe and his family the best. It really has been a pleasure to work with him.”

Curl recorded his first winning season at UH in 2000-2001 when he guided the Lady Cougars to a 19-13 overall record and a 10-6 mark in C-USA. That season Curl helped the team earn a bid to the WNIT, the first appearance in postseason play for the program since the 1991-1992 campaign.

The 2003-2004 season saw the program reach new heights under Curl, as the team recorded 28 wins, the most in school history, while earning the C-USA regular season and tournament championships and reaching the NCAA Tournament for just the third time. Following the campaign, Curl was named C-USA Coach of the Year in addition to earning National Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press, United States Basketball Writers Association, and The Basketball Times.

This past season, the team earned C-USA’s automatic bid to the WNIT. During his tenure at UH, Curl mentored 18 players who garnered All-Conference honors, including at least one First Team selection for each of the past 10 seasons. Additionally, former Cougar Chandi Jones was named Conference USA Player of the Decade and an All-America selection by numerous media outlets.

Staff reports