The Houston Cougars could be playing the postseason to save the job of head coach Tom Penders.
As Penders wraps up his 36th season as a head coach, many wonder about his future at the school.
This season was supposed to be a "special" one, in Penders' own words. And yet, the Cougars wound up being a middle-of-the-pack team and ended the regular season with a 15-15 overall record and a 7-9 mark in C-USA play, earning the tournament's No. 7 seed.
While the team didn't have a losing record in his first five seasons at Houston, he is a $450,000-per-year coach still trying to take the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament since 1992.
Should the school buy out the final two years on Penders contract, it would cost $500,000.
"I'm one of the luckiest guys to have coached as many years and won as many games as I have," Penders told the Houston Chronicle. "It's a one-in-10,000 shot. I'm happy about it, and I'm happy the University of Houston gave me this opportunity. I'll continue to serve the University of Houston as long as they'll have me."
--The five offensive rebounds the Cougars had in a March 6 loss to Tulane were the lowest the team posted in C-USA play this year and the lowest since grabbing just two offensive boards in a pre-conference win over TCU on Dec. 23.
--Houston's March 3 win over Rice made eight in a row over the Cougars' cross-town foe.
ON THE SPOT: As he's said before, Houston head coach Tom Penders isn't a big fan of the rebounding stat. It showed in a March 6 loss to Tulane. The Green Wave out-rebounded the Cougars 46-22, including 17-5 in offensive boards. The only Cougar who showed up on the boards was league-leading scorer G Aubrey Coleman who, along with scoring 38 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. No other Cougars player had more than three rebounds.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coach Penders is a great coach. You can see the development from the day guys walk in to the day they leave." -- Houston G Zamal Nixon to the Houston Chronicle.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: If the Cougars want to make noise in the postseason, they'll have to break their recent trend of alternating wins and losses. Since Jan. 1, the Cougars haven't won, or lost, more than two games in a row.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Aubrey Coleman, PG Desmond Wade, G Kelvin Lewis, F Maurice McNeil, F Kendrick Washington. Key Subs -- F Sean Coleman, F Kirk Van Slyke, G Zamal Nixon, G Adam Brown.
SMU 94, Houston 83
Houston 78, Rice 70
Tulane 79, Houston 76
vs. East Carolina at C-USA Tournament, Wednesday, March 10
IN FOCUS: With league scoring champ G Aubrey Coleman, and an up-and- down style that is hard to keep up with, the Cougars present matchup problems for any team in C-USA so long as the game is played at their up-tempo pace.
--G Zamal Nixon returned to the Houston lineup in a March 3 win over Rice after having missed the previous two games with mononucleosis.
Nixon had seven points, four rebounds and four steals in 18 minutes of action.
--G Aubrey Coleman scored 38 points in the Cougars' regular season finale, a loss at Tulane, moving him into 15th place all-time in school history with 1,390 career points.
Coleman ended the regular season scoring a conference-best 26.0 points per game overall and 26.3 in league games.