Tom Penders’s days with GW men’s basketball are over. After several reports of misconduct by him and his players attracted national attention to his squad in the past two years, coupled with new developments in recent weeks reported in both The Hatchet and The Washington Post, Penders resigned under pressure Friday. Now that Penders is gone, athletics officials can begin restoring credibility to a program that this year saw its first losing season in 11 years. While searching for a new coach to lead the Colonials, GW should seek to avoid someone with Penders’s speckled past and hire a coach who can bring good players with good character to GW.
An important part of any athletic program is discipline, an attribute the GW men’s basketball team clearly lacked under Penders. Whoever fills the post must take responsibility for his players’ off-court behavior. Such a positive influence could prevent the recurrence of incidents such as a fall 1999 shooting on F Street involving players’ guests, spring 2000 allegations of sexual assault against Attila Cosby, a winter break melee in Hawaii between GW and the University of Tennessee and, most recently, illegal use of long-distance phone codes in violation of NCAA rules. Perhaps Penders’s biggest mistake was his failure to tell Athletic Director Jack Kvancz about Cosby’s newest legal troubles – the forward was charged with nine misdemeanor counts related to the original incident filed January 26.
Penders said he could not “police” his players. GW needs a coach who will take more responsibility for his team. One need only look to the women’s basketball program to see an example of how an athletic program should be run: high grades and graduation rates, a winning team and players of good moral character. In short, a team GW can be proud to have.
Penders’s resignation is coupled with the University agreeing to honor his contract, which has three years remaining at a six-figure salary. No one should have any illusions about the generosity of the terms of Penders’ departure. By paying the contract, administrators are hastening his exit through incentives. Thankfully, it appears GW wants to change the image of its basketball program.
Now the search begins for a new coach, one who will positively influence athletics at GW, someone whom the players and fans can get behind. The new face prowling the Smith Center sidelines will need to improve communication within the athletic department, with the team and with the University community, including the fans who were so sorely disappointed by Penders’s actions and his team.