GW men’s basketball coach Tom Penders has been many places in his coaching career: Tufts and Columbia universities, Fordham, Rhode Island, the University of Texas and finally GW. Despite his experience, Penders feels for the first time in his career, he has the full support of the college where he is coaching.
Everybody here wants to help us be successful, from the janitors to the president and the students, Penders said.
Perhaps that is a reflection of GW’s athletic history. The school has never been able to field consecutive successful coaches. With Penders taking over for Mike Jarvis last season, that problem seems to be solved. But until the Colonials face real competition, nobody will know how good this year’s team will be.
One thing is evident, though. The Colonials will be a Tom Penders team. To college basketball fans across the country that means a run-and-gun, fast-paced, high-scoring squad. Penders dismisses all that as a misperception.
I’m 90 percent defense, 10 percent offense, Penders said. But we play fast. People know that when they play us – it’s chaos. We’re kind of like a blitzing, stunting, aggressive (defensive) team. We’re going to put pressure on you.
Whatever it is he does, he’s done it well. He’s been successful at all of his stops (with a career winning percentage more than .600), but GW’s been unique in that he hasn’t had to go through teaching guys how to win.
GW is the first school I’ve coached at that has had a recent pattern of success, he said.
He has not had to teach the fans either.
This is the best student support that I’ve had, he said. Last year was unbelievable when the students were here – we were unbeatable. The Xavier and UMass games where as loud as any arena I’ve been in, right from the warm-ups. It was incredible.
And according to Penders, he will enjoy the support of the Smith Center Psychos for a long time.
I love it. This is me, Penders said. I’m a city guy. I have no interest in any other coaching job. This, to me, is my last stop and where I want to be for the rest of my career.
Penders sits at 498 career wins – a tremendous accomplishment for a coach but one he would rather not talk about.
I haven’t even thought about it, I just hope it happens in Alaska, he said, referring to the team’s opening games at the Top of the World Classic.
Although he names consistency as his primary goal, there is no doubt why Penders and GW have joined hands.
Of all the jobs I’ve had this is the one that gives me the best opportunity to do the only thing I haven’t done, Penders said. Which is to get to a `Final Four.’ That’s my goal. That’s what I came to do here. I want to go to a `Final Four.’
This article appeared in the November 8, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.