Sports

Russ Pennell introduced as new men’s basketball coach

Former UCA Bears basketball guard Russ Pennell was introduced March 7 as the new men’s basketball coach.

Athletic Director Brad Teague said Pennell was the best of many candidates.

“We wanted someone who has been successful in coaching, showed the ability to recruit and demonstrated a concern for academics,” he said. “He fit UCA’s profile and embodies all of those characteristics.”

Over his five seasons as a head coach at the NCAA level, he compiled a 93-58 (.676) record and made it to the NCAA Tournament three times.

Pennell has been an assistant coach at Pittsburg State University, Oklahoma State University, Ole Miss and Arizona State University.

Pennell received his first head coaching job as the interim coach at the University of Arizona for the 2008-2009 season, taking over for Hall of Famer Lute Olson, who announced his retirement on Oct. 24, 2008 due to medical reasons.

Pennell coached the Wildcats to a 9-9 Pacific-12 Conference, 21-14 overall and a Sweet 16 appearance.

After being defeated by the No. 1 seed in the region, Arizona hired Xavier University men’s basketball coach Sean Miller to a five-year contract April 7, 2009, thus ending Pennell’s tenure with the Wildcats.

Two days later, Pennell was hired as the head coach of the Grand Canyon University Antelopes men’s basketball team.

At the time of his hiring, GCU was a Division II school in the Pacific West Conference.

In his four seasons with the Antelopes, Pennell compiled a 72-44 overall record and a 46-22 record in the PWC.

His final two seasons at GCU, the team made the NCAA Tournament, but were eliminated in the first round both times.

GCU was transitioning to Division I and becoming a Western Atlantic Conference member.On what would be the final night, Pennell was head coach of the Antelopes in 2013, he learned he would not be retained for the next season.

Two days later, Pennell resigned and was replaced by former NBA Phoenix Suns player Dan Marjele.

Pennell then became the interim head coach of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Mercury replacing Corey Gaines, who was fired.

With the Mercury, Pennell coached former college stars guard Diana Taurasi and center Brittney Griner and guided the team to the Western Conference finals.

On March 5, Pennell was announced to replace UCA interim men’s basketball coach Clarence Finley.

Finley coached the Bears to an 8-21 overall record and 5-13 record in the Southland Conference.

Pennell played alongside NBA legend Scottie Pippen during their days at UCA.

As a senior, Pennell led the now-defunct Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference in assists per game with 8.2.

Pennell will bring his seven principles of success to UCA, which include commitment, loyalty, unselfishness, discipline, love, perspective and dream.

He said he will endure a difficult transition period but that everyone is excited.

“The reality is, we have a lot of work to do but we are excited to be here and get things started,” he said.

At the press conference, Pennell was asked about potential recruits, but couldn’t reveal any names because of NCAA recruitment rules.

Pennell said he and his coaching staff members have eight players they are looking at and at least two are guards.

As of March 7, Pennell has named one assistant coach, Anthony Boone, who played for Pennell at Ole Miss and coached with Pennell at GCU and with the Mercury.

Pennell is a defensive-minded coach, which means the team will slow down the pace of the way they play.

Prior to the press conference the same day, the UCA Board of Trustees approved his four-year, $135,000 annual salary.

Pennell’s contract starts April 1 and will expire March 31, 2018.

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