The GW men’s basketball team left Tuesday for Alaska and the Top of the World Classic, with Coach Tom Penders on the brink of a milestone. The Colonials open their regular season against Indiana State University Friday night at 11 p.m EST, when Penders will be seeking his 499th career victory.
For the trip, the Colonials packed their pressure defense, high-octane offense, and an appetite for three straight wins. After a couple of exhibition victories, one by 42 points, the Colonials left for Alaska flying high. GW head coach Tom Penders heads to Alaska with 498 wins, just short of the 500-win plateau – a win total never reached by a GW coach. With two wins in the tournament this weekend, Penders would join only 25 other Division-I head coaches with 500 victories.
Penders said the record means little to him.
When I retire, I’ll think more about it, he said.
Penders took over losing programs at Rhode Island, Fordham, and Texas. The 500 wins are significant because, in each one, except GW, Penders had to rebuild an ailing program or start from scratch. This is the first program that had a winning season when Penders took over.
I’ve been very fortunate, Penders said. I’m very proud of the programs that I’ve rebuilt. These were programs that were not synonymous with winning.
I think I’ve been successful because of my passion for the game, my love for the game of basketball, Penders said. And I think because I can convey that passion to my players, I’ve been successful. And that hasn’t softened. Especially because I know now what it takes to win.
Penders had some memorable wins along the way to 500, saying the Xavier game last season was huge. The Colonials won that game on a Shawnta Rogers three-pointer to win the game and the Atlantic 10 West Division title outright. Other wins Penders mentioned include his NCAA run with Rhode Island in 1988, when his team beat the University of Missouri, Syracuse University and nearly upset Duke University.
I guess I’ve been blessed, Penders said.
Penders said he wants the world to know that basketball is his way of building leaders in life. He said that he is a teacher, a leader in life and not just another basketball coach.
When I die, I don’t want my record on my tombstone, Penders said. I want it to say that I was trying to help people. That I was trying to do a good thing.