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Penders Responds to Players' Claims of Verbal Abuse

March 24, 1998|From Associated Press

Texas basketball Coach Tom Penders countered complaints from a few players about his coaching style on Monday while simultaneously defending his character.

"I'm not perfect. I have many faults, but I have never abused any player in my 30 years as a head coach," Penders told a news conference in Austin, Texas.

Penders said he would let former players, including ones now on his staff, defend his coaching style while he concentrated on defending his character.

"I have a personal belief in honesty and loyalty and doing the right thing. I have never violated any NCAA rule in my career or brought discredit to the university," Penders said.

Controversy erupted last week when freshman Luke Axtell complained about unfair treatment, alleged verbal abuse and said he planned to transfer.

Axtell, 7-foot freshman center Chris Mihm, freshman point guard Bernard Smith and sophomore forward Gabe Muoneke met with Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds on March 9, the day after the Longhorns were eliminated from the Big 12 Conference tournament.

Last week, Penders announced that Axtell would be suspended indefinitely for academic reasons. Later that day, Axtell, second in scoring with a 13.3 points per game average, revealed that Dodds had granted him a transfer from Texas.

Penders defended his decision to suspend Axtell.

"I felt I had no choice," Penders said. "It's just a suspension. Luke Axtell is still on the basketball team at Texas and I've had nothing but positive things to say about him. He played hard every night, but I still had to suspend him."

Kris Clack, the team's leading scorer, said Penders and other coaches do say things and yell at players, but that's expected.

*

A tournament of buzzer-beaters, upsets and feel-good stories have helped CBS post the highest tournament ratings in four years.

Through Sunday's regional finals, CBS had a 6.2 rating and a 13 share, compared to a 6.1 and a 14 share last year.

Kentucky's comeback win against Duke was the highest-rated regional final since Michigan-Arkansas got a 10.1 in 1994. The only game to slip in ratings was the Utah-Arizona blowout, which got a 6.5.

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Fresno State Coach Jerry Tarkanian was the center of attention as the four teams playing in the NIT semifinals tonight at Madison Square Garden arrived in New York on Monday.

Tarkanian's team has received as attention for all the wrong reasons. A "60 Minutes" profile on Fresno State's problems was followed just days later by the arrest of two more players.

That incident, in which senior center Avondre Jones and freshman Kenny Brunner were accused of threatening a man with handguns and samurai swords, came just hours after Fresno State's buzzer-beating win over Memphis in the NIT's second round.

"It's been a real tough season," Tarkanian told reporters Monday. "We've been up and down. We've had a lot problems and it's been very difficult for us. . . . Our kids have hung together, and I'm real proud that they've been able to overcome some of the adversity."

Fresno State (21-11) plays Minnesota (18-15) tonight, followed by Penn State (18-12) facing Georgia (19-14). The championship game is Thursday night.

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