There is a lot of excitement surrounding the upcoming Basketball season and the start of the Tom Penders era at the University of Houston. Many fans are looking forward to the up-tempo style utilized by Coach Penders and his aggressive trapping defense. While Coach Penders brings his NATIONAL reputation and 527 career wins to Houston, he has also assembled a quality staff to help RESTORE THE ROAR to Cougar Basketball. Any head coach will tell you that no program is successful without quality assistant coaches working hard behind the scenes. Our new staff has worked extremely hard since last spring and their efforts were rewarded with the signing of five quality jucos in May. They are currently wrapping up the long HOT summer which should result in the signing of three additional quality players this November. With Tom Penders and his staff the future of Cougar Basketball looks brighter than it has in years. With the start of the season we want to introduce the NEW University of Houston Basketball staff. Michael Young is NOT included in this interview due to his knee surgery. We hope Mike gets well soon and we can do a follow-up with Michael in the near future.
MELVIN HARALSON - Associate Head Coach/ Recruiting director
JM – Melvin, please tell Cougar Basketball fans about your experience in coaching.
MH - Entering my 17th year of coaching, I can honestly say it has been very satisfying. Working at Auburn University for two years, Texas five years, North Texas for five years, and Houston going on five years. I have experience in eight NCAA Tournaments as a player and coach and one Elite-8 as a player.
JM - Melvin please us your responsibilities as the associate head coach and recruiting director. Please detail your responsibilities during practice, games, and recruiting.
MH - Practice: Help Coach Penders with the practice planning working very closely with guards on shooting, footwork, offense and defense. Games: Help with the game planning. Scouting the opponent and coming up with a plan for victory. Helping out with offensive, defensive and substitution strategy. Recruiting: Oversee and evaluate all recruiting. Making sure we get the best fit for the program.
JM - Melvin, Tom has said you are a great recruiter. Please tell us your approach to recruiting and evaluating players.
MH - Being in the business for 17-years has taught me not to accept average, but seek the best. My belief is evaluating is most important when talking about recruiting philosophy. If you don't have an eye for evaluating talent you can bet you wont win very many games. I try to build a strong relationship with the kid and his family. When you establish a relationship 8o% of the job is done. From my experience the school that builds the relationship through honesty and stays consistent through the recruiting process usually wins the battle of the recruitment.
JM – Melvin, I know you had some opportunities elsewhere yet choose to remain at the University of Houston. Please tell us your thoughts on coaching at UH and how you feel about coaching under Tom Penders.
MH - Two years ago, I had a chance to become the Head Coach at Jackson State University. After evaluating the situation and talking with family and friends I thought it was in my best interest to stay. Also, Coach McCallum asked me to stay and that was all I needed to hear. Coach McCallum will always be a friend. He is a very good man!!!
JM - Melvin tell us about your family. Being an ex point guard I noticed you named your son Isaiah. Hopefully he grows up to be like Isaiah Thomas and plays for you at UH.
MH - My wife Tonia and I have been happily married for 15 years. We have a boy four years of age named Isaiah. Tonia has been very supportive of me and my career. I have been truly blessed to have her and Isaiah in my corner. To answer the question about Isaiah and basketball, I have no idea of what to expect. Playing sports has become a full time job. I need more time to see how committed he will become.
JM - Melvin you were a JC All-American at Lon Morris. What are your thoughts regarding recruiting High School versus junior college players?
MH - Most J.C. players are hungry for success. Some of the players didn't qualify out of high school, some made bad decisions out of high school and choose the wrong Division 1 school (no playing time), whatever the reason may be that player is hungry for success. He wants to prove he belongs on the D1 level. Trust me, I am a living witness, that is why I hope and pray that Darrius Brandon gets his chance. If he does make his grades he might jump over the backboard. That is the reason for liking JC players, most JC players are very focused because of past trails in their life.
JM - Melvin you were here under Ray McCallum and have coached under Tom Penders before. What are some differences we Cougar fans should expect to see this year?
MH - A very focused team that plays with confidence, self-assurance, togetherness, aggressiveness and toughness. Also, the players will have fun playing at this fast pace. Being in good condition is a must because it never stops.
SHANON HAYS - Associate Head Coach
JM – Shanon, being the son of a coach, please detail for CoogFans how you decided to get into coaching.
SH - My father started out as the basketball and baseball coach at Lubbock Christian College. That is what gave me the desire to coach basketball even though I played only one year of college basketball and four years of baseball. My dad is a real basketball guy even though he is known for baseball.
JM – You were the Head Coach at Midland Cc and took that program to a third place finish in the National Juco Tourney in your only year there, Please detail your coaching career and experience before coming to the University of Houston.
SH - I started out a G.A. for James Dickey his first year at Texas Tech. Then, I was a head HS coach for three years. I went to Frank Phillips in '95 and then to ACU for three years. After that, back to Tech as an assistant for two years. Then I became A.D. at ACU for a little over a year and then on to Midland. I have always looked to go to a situation where I could immediately make a difference. Frank Phillips had only won four games the year before and we won 19. ACU had three straight losing seasons and we had three straight winning seasons and a Sweet 16. Midland had its first losing seasons ever the year before I took the job…That is why I took the job with Coach Penders. He has obviously been successful at turning around struggling programs.
JM – Shanon, you have three of your former Midland players coming to Houston with you. Please tell us what we can expect to see from these players.
SH - I expect people to see three players that will play hard and that will be solid kids that will excel in the classroom. They will be unselfish guys who will find a way to help the team. None of the three are NBA players, but all three are great pieces that will help build a good club. Englebert and Sergio both usually do a good job of rebounding and being physical in the paint. Cherrington is more offensive minded. Latham will be fun to watch. He brings great energy and athleticism. He is a super shot-blocker as a guard. He has the ability to cover the other teams top guard and is also a great pressing guard. All three are tough kids.
JM - Please tell us about your family and the adjustment of coming from West Texas to Houston.
SH - I have a great wife, Tina, who was a great player. She knows the game and understands the business. She played in college and was a two time TAPPS Player of the Year. I have two sons, Hunter (eight) and Heath (six) and a daughter, Hampton (three). We are all adjusting well. My wife teaches at Westbury Christian and my kids go there. It is definitely different than West Texas. We miss having our extended family nearby.
JM – Shanon, please describe your responsibilities during practice, games, and recruiting.
SH - I do a little bit of everything. I have experience doing everything so I enjoy being involved in everything. We have a good staff that all have extensive experience on and off the floor. I think my main responsibilities will be assisting Coach Penders with on the floor coaching and then recruiting.
GEORGE WALKER – Assistant Coach
JM - George please tell us your responsibilities on Tom's staff. What position will you be coaching and what are your responsibilities during practice, games, and recruiting.
GW - My main responsibility this season will be with our big guys on and off the floor. We as coaches are looking for improvement everyday during practice. During our practices and games we are concerned with about their position on the court. We must have big guys who can run the floor well as well as finish the play after they receive the ball. Recruiting on and off campus will be another responsibility of mine.
JM - George you have been on previous UH basketball staff's. Please describe the differences between how Tom Penders operates compared to other coaches you have been associated with.
GW - Coach Penders is not any different than any other coach. He wants things done his way on the floor. He really is a fast pace guy when it comes to the game of basketball. All of our guys are in really good shape because of the fast pace game that we will be playing Coach Penders demands a lot from his players on and off the floor.
JM - George tell us about your family. You have coached all over which takes tremendous support from your family.
GW - I have a wife Gloria, daughter Lauren and son Jordan. My wife is vice Chancellor at Houston Community College. My daughter is a freshman at Florida State University when she is playing volleyball for the Seminoles. My son Jordan attends Westbury Christian Middle School.
JM - George you were a great player at UH for Guy Lewis. How did you decide to get into coaching and please detail your previous experience.
GW - I decided to get into coaching after talking with Coach Lewis. I felt that I could relate to players on what they had to do on and off the court. I tried it and it worked for me, so I decided to go for it and I've been pretty successful at it.
TREY PRESTON – Video Coordinator/Summer Camp Director
JM - Trey, tell us your responsibilities on Tom's staff.
TP - My responsibilities include the organization of all film exchange and breakdown of film that we receive on opponents I am also responsible for overseeing the managers, recruit mailings and other various duties the other coaches may need help with As director of the summer camps I look forward to making the UH/Tom Penders Basketball Camps the elite summer camp to attend in the city of Houston
JM - Tell us about your background in basketball. Where have you played and where have you coached?
TP - I played small college basketball at Texas Lutheran University. We were affiliated with NAIA Division 1 at that time. I began my coaching at TLU and then moved on to University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. UIW is a Top 25 NCAA Division 2 school and I gathered great experience there. At D2 schools it is basically the head coach and assistant so as the only assistant coach, I was responsible for a great number of things. I was the recruiting coordinator, fundraiser, tournament director, film coordinator, travel planner, on court coach, etc…
JM - Trey tell us about your family and your thoughts on moving to Houston.
TP - I have been happily married to my wife, Jamie, for almost 7 years and we have a two-year old son named Ty. My wife is from the Houston area so it was great for her to move back home. I am not only excited but also honored to have the opportunity to work for a great coach like Tom Penders and a university with such great basketball tradition as UH. I really enjoy this staff and am ready for this season to get started.
CoogFans welcomes Tom Penders and his 2004 basketball staff. We look forward to watching this new era of exciting basketball and the return of COUGAR BASKETBALL to prominence.