The Houston Cougars is a men’s basketball team that represents the University of Houston in Texas, USA. The team plays at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I tournament and is a member of the Conference USA. The team is currently coached by Tom Penders who is running his 6th year as a coach. The Cougars play their home games at the Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston.
The men’s basketball team was first formed in the 1945-46 season and in their debut season made it to the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) post season play tournament. The Cougars were known for their 2-2 in 2 years of NAIA tournament record. The team also won 2 consecutive NCAA’s Lone Star Conference titles under the guidance of Alden Pasche.
After Pasche, Guy Lewis stepped into his shoes and led the Cougars to 27 straight winning seasons along with 14 seasons with 20-plus wins. The team also made it to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. Lewis was known as a promoter of the once-outlawed dunk shot and also as a major force in the college’s racial integration. He was the first coach from a major college to have recruited African-American athletes.
The Cougars were active members of the Southwest Conference until joining the Conference USA in 1996. However, the team has a not-so-good debut season under coach Alvin Brooks and going 3-11 at the end of the season. Despite bright expectations, the next season was even more futile and Brooks led the team to rock bottom with 2-14 in 1997-98.
In order to lift up the hopes and spirits of the players as well as fans, the team management recruited Clyde Drexler, Houston’s best known and biggest sports icons as the head coach. However he left the Cougars after serving for two years to spend more time with his family. Ray McCallum was hired after Drexler left and he took the team to where Drexler could not. The team earned a spot at the NCAA Tournament and the team finished the 2001-02 season with a 18-15 record. In the last season, the team has played a balanced schedule both on home grounds and away.
The team has won 5 Conference tournament championships and 6 conference regular season championships.
With 16 NCAA appearances till date, the team has reached the Sweet Sixteen round on 10 occasions, Elite Eight and Final Four rounds on 8 occasions, and was runners up on 2 occasions.