Did Houston's Penders just save his job?


Houston capped off its unlikely run to the C-USA title game earlier this afternoon, and we've already been over the most important piece of detritus from the Cougars' championship fallout: the bubble.

What was less obvious at the time is that with the win, Houston coach Tom Penders might just have saved his job. Penders isn't exactly a hot seat name you'd have heard with any regularity preceding today. Talk about timing.

Houston's Culture Map explains:

It became so bad, so apparent that Penders' end was here, that reports that he'd retire (in no small part to save face) started making the rounds, with some of them reportedly coming from unknown sources within the University of Houston's athletic department. SNY basketball commentator Adam Zagoria tweeted that former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie was a leading candidate to replace Penders.

Everyone knew that Penders was going to be fired, terminated, kicked to the curb, "encouraged" to retire. UH basketball fans openly bantered the names of possible successors around on the message boards.

Most of the anti-Penders sentiment stemmed from the Cougars' inability to advance past the semifinal round of the Conference USA tournament in Penders' five years. Houston won more than 18 games in each of the journeyman's first five seasons, but in C-USA, that's not enough; you have to dominate your conference or win the conference tournament, something none of Penders' teams had approached in his tenure at the school. The only reason Penders might have stayed without a win today is if Houston administrators decided they didn't want to pay off the rest of the coach's contract. He had no one in his corner.

Now? Given the contract concerns, Houston almost has to keep the coach. After all, Penders just got the Cougars to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992. But you can forgive Houston fans for feeling a little conflicted. Before this week, Penders had six years of relative failure on his Houston résumé. Now he has six years of relative failure plus one week of euphoric success. Cougars fans can enjoy the moment, but will they be just as happy if Penders falls flat next season?