- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

A hastily called news conference late on a Friday afternoon. Mounting evidence of a team out of control. Off-court embarrassments and on-court losses piling up at an alarming rate at a once-proud program.
Tom Penders "resigned" last week as coach of the George Washington basketball team. However, a source with knowledge of the situation said it was about "50-50" half the coach wanting his contract bought out and half the university wanting to get rid of him.
That scenario seems to make sense, considering athletic director Jack Kvancz said the university will honor the entire contract and pay Penders about $1 million over the next three seasons. Normally when someone quits, the employer is not liable for the remainder of the contract.
Several of his coaching colleagues said Penders' departure was just a matter of time based on his reputation among his peers. One coach who regularly plays GW called it the "dirtiest team in the country" after a game.
Penders' resignation was his second in a little more than three years. He abruptly left Texas amid controversy in the spring of 1998. He was bought out of his last four years with the Longhorns and paid $1 million.
The 55-year-old coach left GW last week after it was revealed that one of his players, Attila Cosby, is facing nine new misdemeanor charges in connection with a felony rape charge that had been dismissed. Penders reportedly withheld the information from his athletic director for two months, and Kvancz first learned of the new hearing from a reporter from the school newspaper.
Also last week four players reportedly seniors Mike King and Bernard Barrow and freshmen Darnell Miller and Marquin Chandler were implicated for using an unauthorized access code for long distance calls after copying the number off the phone card of assistant coach Tom Penders Jr.
"It was unfortunate those things were happening," said Penders, who claimed the recent turbulence had nothing to do with his decision to step down, a choice he said he made two weeks before the news conference.
It concluded a rocky season for Penders, whose team was involved in several fights, including a brawl with Tennessee players at a tournament in Hawaii in December. The Colonials were 14-18 last season, the program's first losing record in 11 years. It was the second straight season the Colonials, who were 15-15 in 1999-2000, failed to go to a postseason tournament, breaking a run of seven consecutive appearances.
"One of the things about sports is it comes out in the end," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said.
Penders often took verbal shots at Jarvis, his predecessor at GW, blaming losses on the lack of leftover talent. Ironically, it was only in Penders' first season in 1998-99 using almost exclusively Jarvis' recruits that Penders had success, finishing with a 20-9 record and an NCAA tournament berth behind Atlantic 10 player of the year Shawnta Rogers.
"Whatever took place is out of the norm at GW," Jarvis said. "It hurts to see that happen because it's a great school and has a strong athletic department. A lot of fences have to be mended."
While Penders cited "burn out" and a desire to spend more time with his family as a reason to leave GW, several coaches who chose not be identified said his reputation finally caught up to him.
An obvious quick fix that failed was Cosby, who came to GW with a problematic history. Cosby left Pittsburgh after being suspended for fighting with an assistant coach among other troubles. After coming to GW, his third school, Cosby was arrested on felony rape charges last May after an incident in a school dormitory. He also was charged with sexual abuse, simple assault, attempted weapons violations and theft, but the charges were dropped because his accuser did not show up in court.
Cosby informed Penders about the trial on the nine misdemeanor charges for the same incident in early February, according to GW's school newspaper, the Hatchet. The Hatchet also first informed Kvancz of the criminal proceeding more than two months after Penders first learned of them.
The recent controversy came just three years after Penders left Texas amid similar circumstances. Penders was accused of releasing the transcript of a player suspended because of academics to an Austin radio station, which he later blamed on one of his assistants. Players rallied against the coach, saying they had been mistreated. Penders claimed he was stabbed in the back by the athletic director, who met with players without his consent.
George Washington women's basketball coach Joe McKeown is among the candidates to replace Penders. Also interested are St. John's and former GW assistant Kevin Clark and Catholic University's Mike Lonergan.
"I think they are serious about me, and I am serious about them," said McKeown, whose team had a 22-10 record last season. "I respect them enough to listen and go from there."
Clark was an assistant under Mike Jarvis at GW for four seasons before moving with Jarvis to St. John's in 1998. His only coaching experience came at Division III Clark (Mass.) University from 1987 to '91.
"He has a great track record," Jarvis said. "He's been a great assistant, and he's been a head coach. I think he would be a great choice."
Lonergan is coming off a season in which he led Catholic to the Division III national championship.
In other GW news, SirValiant Brown, who averaged 18 points a game last season as a sophomore, is expected to leave the program. Brown was second in the nation in scoring as a freshman at 24.6 points but made just 33 percent of his field goals.

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