Tom Penders was introduced as Mike Jarvis’ successor as men’s basketball coach Thursday, promising up-tempo, exciting basketball.
“I just can’t wait to coach this group of young men,” Penders said at a press conference in the Smith Center. “We’re going to have fun and we’re going to fill this arena. We have all the pieces in place, my biggest problem is going to be pronunciation.”
Seven days earlier, Jarvis held his own press conference at St. John’s University, announcing he had taken the Red Storm’s vacant coaching position.
After Jarvis announced his departure, GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz worked quickly to find a new coach. He interviewed University of Delaware coach Mike Brey, GW associate coach Kevin Clark and former University of Texas coach Penders last week. Brey withdrew from consideration Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.
Kvancz chose Penders, his friend since the two attended rival high schools in Connecticut. Penders told The Dallas Morning News he expected to sign a six-year contract for $450,000 a year. GW did not release exact terms of the contract.
“(Penders) is competitive, he’s compassionate for the game and he’s concerned about his players on and off the court,” Kvancz said.
Penders said he met several players Thursday and they seemed excited about playing an up-tempo style.
“I’m going to spend the next few days getting to know each and every one of them,” he said.
GW’s athletic department did not make players available for comment.
Penders has a career record of 478-319 in more than 27 seasons at five schools. In 10 years at Texas, Penders’ teams made eight NCAA Tournaments and reached the “Elite Eight” during the 1989-90 season and the “Sweet 16” during the 1996-97 season.
Penders resigned from Texas amid controversy last spring. Freshman Luke Axtell publicly criticized Penders after being suspended from the team for academic reasons. Axtell’s grades where then accidentally released to a local radio station by an assistant, according to published reports. The accidental release was a violation of the Buckley Amendment, the law that prohibits the release of students’ grades for any reason.
Penders said he resigned because he felt he could no longer work under Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds.
“I felt my AD was undermining me,” Penders said. “He met with my players on a Sunday and didn’t tell me about it until Friday. You cannot succeed without the support of your AD.”
Penders said he has many connections with GW and has complete trust in Kvancz. “At Texas, the AD would come into my office maybe once a year,” he said. “I expect Jack to be in my office or me to be in his office every day.”
Penders has coached at Tufts, Columbia and Fordham universities and the University of Rhode Island. At each school, Penders rebuilt a losing program.
“This is the first job I’ve taken where the program hasn’t been in complete disarray,” Penders said. “Mike Jarvis did a great job. I’m here to carry on the torch.”
Jarvis rebuilt the GW program during his eight seasons as coach, finishing with a 152-90 record. Jarvis said St. John’s offered the right situation to move on to a new challenge.
“The timing and the opportunity were great,” he said. “The (GW) program is in great shape. That’s why the timing was so good.”
Jarvis said he told GW players it was important for them to move on. “I told them I expect them to have a great year,” he said.
Penders did not say who will serve on his coaching staff . But he said he would like to hire one of his assistants from Texas. He also said he has talked to current GW assistant Brian Blaney about remaining on the staff.
Penders said he would like to hire an assistant with connections to the Washington-Baltimore area to help with local recruiting.
Penders said he would like to improve GW’s local recruiting and will continue to recruit in the New York City area, where he has connections.
“We’re going to recruit nationally and internationally,” he said. “GW is an international school, but we are going to do the best we possibly can to get players from this area.”
Former assistant Mike Jarvis Jr. already has followed Jarvis to St. John’s and Clark will join Jarvis, according to published reports.
After eight seasons with the GW men’s basketball program, Mike Jarvis accepted the head coaching position at St. John’s University. The Hatchet takes a look back at his GW career.