Russ Pennell

Russ Pennell (born November 28, 1960)

Teams coached: Arizona Wildcats, Grand Canyon Antelopes, Central Arkansas Bears
Arizona record: 21-14 (.600)
Grand Canyon record^: 72-46 (.610)
Central Arkansas record: 50-117 (.299)
Overall record^: 143-177 (.447)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  1  (2009)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen:  1  (2009)
  • NCAA Tournament Final Four:  0
  • NIT Championships:  0
  • NIT Appearances:  0
  • CBI Appearances:  1  (2018)
  • NCAA Division II Tournament Appearances:  2  (2012, 2013)

Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

2022-2024 Rice (asst)
2014-2019 Central Arkansas
2013 Phoenix Mercury (interim HC)
2009-2013 Grand Canyon
2008-2009 Arizona (interim HC)
1998-2004 Arizona State (asst)
1992-1998 Ole Miss (asst)
1990-1992 Oklahoma State (asst)
1989-1990 Pittsburg State (vol. asst)

Russ Pennell Facts

  • Russell Edwin Pennell
  • Born November 28, 1960
  • Hometown: Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Alma Mater: Pittsburg State University (BA, 1989 & MA, 1990)
  • Played for his father – Dewey Pennell – at Pittsburg HS (KS) before going on to play for Eddie Sutton at Arkansas
    • Transferred to Central Arkansas, where he played alongside Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen under head coach Don Dyer
    • Played four seasons with the Spirit Express, a semi-professional traveling team out of Memphis before returning to Pittsburg where he earned two degrees from Pittsburg State
  • Started coaching in 1989 with stints as a volunteer at Pittsburg State and a two-year tenure assisting Sutton at Oklahoma State
  • Joined Rob Evans‘ staff at Ole Miss in 1992 and later followed him to Arizona State, working under Evans for a total of 12 seasons
  • After Evans was let go from ASU in 2004, Pennell ran the Arizona Premier AAU program for two summers and spent the 2007-08 season as a radio analyst for Sun Devil basketball games
  • Was hired at Arizona in May 2008 as an assistant under Lute Olson, who had planned to return to coaching after missing the season, but was then named interim head coach in October following Olson‘s sudden retirement
    • Pennell was 21-14 in his lone season as Wildcats’ head coach, leading the team to a spot in the 2009 Sweet Sixteen
  • Arizona moved on from Pennell following the season and he was later hired to take over at then-Division II Grand Canyon
    • Went 72-44 in four seasons at GCU, leading the Antelopes to the NCAA D-II Tournament is each his final two seasons
  • Was named interim head coach of the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA in August 2013, leading the team to a 9-4 record and finished the season in the Western Conference Finals
  • Hired as head coach at Central Arkansas in 2014, inheriting a rebuilding program that would win just nine games combined through his first two seasons at the helm
    • By year four (2017-18), Pennell’s team finished above .500 and appeared in the 2018 CBI Tournament
    • In December 2019, the school announced Pennell was taking an indefinite leave of absence following a 1-9 start
      • On January 7, 2020, the UCA announced that Pennell and the school were officially parting ways
  • Returned to college basketball in August 2022, spending two seasons on Scott Pera‘s staff at Rice as an assistant coach

Russ Pennell Coaching Tree

  • Anthony Boone (Central Arkansas)
  • Matt Brase (Rio Grande Valley Vipers, overseas)
  • Mike Dunlap (Loyola Marymount, Charlotte Bobcats)


^ overall record includes head coaching positions at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels only; Grand Canyon was a member of the Division II Pacific West Conference during Pennell’s tenure there