How is Houston “On Their Way Back to National Spotlight”?

My bond with Houston, Texas didn’t begin when I permanently moved to the Bayou City in 2001 after spending the summer of 2000 in the Lone Star State. As a Wolfpacker, my bond with Houston started on a wonderful April day in 1983.

Last year, I tried to draw your attention to some interesting perspectives of how “Tom Penders had UH flying high again.” (in his FIRST YEAR OF COACHING). I even followed that up with an article with some fantastic quotes and perspective from this summer.

Well, on the same night that we are passing along some congratulations to a Carolina program that defeated the 1982 Houston Cougars in the National Semi-finals, we might as well pass along some congratulations to the Houston Cougars for their big win tonight over the Arizona Wildcats (coming in the same week that they also knocked off another Top 25 team).

Tonight, the Associated Press proclaims, “After two mostly forgettable decades, the Houston Cougars are on their way back into the national spotlight.”

But, the AP is a little late with their proclamation. Yoni Cohen at Fox Sports already beat the AP to the story before the season even tipped. I think any Wolfpacker would enjoy reading “Once storied programs are poised for return” that includes some focus in UH.

Think coaches aren’t difference-makers? Think again. In 2003-04, Ray McCallum’s last year at the helm, the Cougars lost 18 games. In 2004-05, “Turnaround Tom” Penders’ first year on the bench, Houston won 18 contests — with more or less the same cast of characters.

In McCallum’s final season, the Cougars committed more turnovers per possession than did 131 clubs. In Penders’ inaugural campaign? Fewer than all but 12 teams. In McCallum’s final year, Houston forced fewer turnovers per possession than did 197 squads. In Penders’ first season? More than all but one — Air Force.”

Obviously, nobody has shared the secret memo that so many Wolfpackers have memorized with programs like Houston (and Georgetown, and UCLA, and UNC-CH, and Ohio State, and……insert about 25 others). This secret memo explains the ‘rationale’ behind the direct correlation between how long a program sucks, and then how that program will ultimately be successful (because it sucked).

Thank goodness that our Athletics Director knows the secret that so many Wolfpackers have shared with me through the years. I can hear them all now, “Herb is building something with foundation. He doesn’t win with smoke and mirrors or try to win fast. When he starts winning, he is going to win for a long, long time.”

In 2001 Lee Fowler shared with the Charlotte Observer this same cosmic truism out of the identical page of the HSSS playbook when he said:

“I’m not saying I don’t care what (outspoken fans) think, but I’ve got a background in basketball, and you hear things about everybody. “The one thing I ask (of) Wolfpack fans is support your coach. Fans want a national championship. The way Herb’s doing things, when we do get there – and I don’t think it’s far away – it will stay there.

See, folks….national championships were not far away in 2001…so, they certainly aren’t far away now!!! And schools who have recently fired coaches and hired news ones like UCLA, Houston, Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, Memphis, Georgetown, Villanova, Wake Forest, Louisiville, and UNC-CH are just going to have to wait behind us because we were close 4 years ago (before all of them made their most recent coaching change and ‘success’ isn’t always a straight line.

In the meantime, we’ll let those folks in Houston and Chapel Hill celebrate their wins today without bursting their bubble about their unsustainable program building. Obviously, they don’t know how to run a program like everyone else in the country. They’ll just have to wait behind our “not far away” program. Just like Carolina did with their 2005 National Championship. How sustainable can something like that be?

General NCS Basketball

12 Responses to How is Houston “On Their Way Back to National Spotlight”?

  1. packbackers 12/04/2005 at 12:33 AM #

    I’m glad to see Tom Penders turning that mess of a program around that Ray McCallum left him: sounds like the turnaround Herb made from the mess Les Robinson left him. And let’s get ready for a school record-tying fifth straight NCAA tournament for Herb this year! Hopefully we can build upon our first Sweet 16 appearance in 16 years.

  2. Class of '74 12/04/2005 at 12:59 PM #

    I can’t say I would blame Les for most of the mess left to Herb. I think a large part should be left at the feet of that idiot Monteith. He and the academic counsel were the Bolshevic’s who decided the revenue generating athletics should be de-emphasized.

  3. Rick 12/05/2005 at 9:00 AM #

    So does it or does it not take 10 years for a turnaround?
    How many schools have to make the quick turnaround before Fowler realizes what an idoit he is.

  4. Jeff 12/05/2005 at 11:08 AM #

    But, Rick…have you seen Houston’s facilities?


    I have. I was able to get a FRONT ROW, CENTER COURT ticket on the day of a CONFERENCE game 2 years ago to join 400 other folks in Hofheinz Pavillion.

    It’s amazing.

    They obviously haven’t ‘arrived’ yet…but, it is a great feeling in Houston for everyone to be so excited about their future.

  5. Rick 12/05/2005 at 3:13 PM #

    Houston went 9-20, 18-16, 10-20 and 9-18 and then hired a new coach. They were 18-14 last year and they appear to be better this year.
    I bet though in 10 years he might be able to get into the NCAA.

  6. blpack 12/05/2005 at 11:40 PM #

    Though it is an accomplishment, we should not be turning back flips for making the NCAAs. We should expect national rankings(top 15 at least), a more demanding home schedule, top 4 in the ACC, Sweet 16s(plural) and dare I say, don’t stop there, have a goal be the Final 4. Shoot for the stars, and maybe recruit a few too.

  7. Jeff 12/06/2005 at 7:26 AM #

    ^As much as I agree with you…it is, unfortunately, far too late for that. The new standard in NC State Basketball is to “make the NCAA Tournament”. It started in Herb’s 6th year when that was the bar set for him to keep his job, and we have dumbed down the historical standards/expectations ever since.

    Haven’t you heard? We are poised to make the NCAA Tournament for our 5th consecutive year — which the morons don’t understand isn’t a very relevant fact prior to 1985 when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. Golly gee….we COINCIDENTLY made the tournament in the first 5 years of 64 team era until we folded the tents with V. So, that stat is actually an indictment of how BAD our program was for 15 years. Not how “good” we are now (when we have managed to squeeze in on the bubble in 3 of the last 4 years — including last year when we were the WORST at-large RPI team in the field)

    8 or 9 NCAA Tournaments in ever 10 year period @ NC State should be expected. Not overly-praised.

  8. Class of '74 12/06/2005 at 7:28 AM #

    ^ There was a time when we expected that! But not anymore, let’s just be happy now with not being last place. Afterall we can’t possibly compete with Duke or UNC or BC and besides it’s not fair to Herb.

  9. Rick 12/06/2005 at 11:41 AM #

    Anyone know what Robinson’s record was for his last 4 years? How does it compare to Houston’s?

  10. blpack 12/07/2005 at 7:14 PM #

    Off the top of my head:
    1993 8-19, 94 11-17, 95 12-18, 96 15-16.

  11. Class of '74 12/08/2005 at 12:28 PM #

    HEY, wait a minute. That shows steady improvement just like Herb!

  12. Jeff 12/11/2005 at 5:42 PM #

    ^ That was Toddy Turner’s rationale for offering Less a contract extension when Less decided that he had enough.

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