CONWAY, AR - Former University of Central Arkansas Bear Russ Pennell is returning to the university as the head men’s basketball coach.
Pennell, 53, was introduced at a Friday news conference as the new Bears coach by Dr. Brad Teague, UCA director of athletics.
“Russ Pennell is the total package,’ said Teague. “He recruits relentlessly for quality students who make excellent teammates and ultimately great teams. Coach Pennell wants his players to succeed in academics and in life as much as the success they will find the court.
“Coach Pennell’s attention to detail ensures an efficient operation. He and his staff will work extremely hard for UCA and our basketball program. We are very pleased Coach Pennell choose to come home to UCA.’
Pennell, from Pittsburg, Kan., played two seasons at UCA under Hall of Fame Coach Don Dyer. His coaching resume since then is thorough and impressive, as is the list of coaches he has worked under, including Hall of Famers Eddie Sutton and Lute Olson.
“Coach Pennell’s resume is extensive,’ said Teague. “I watched him coach for several years at Ole Miss when I worked there. He was the most involved coach in game planning and coaching. I was impressed 15 years ago and he has only grown and experienced more since that time.
"To have four different major conference programs and five years of head coaching experience on any resume is hard to find. But for that person to also have UCA as their alma mater is special.’
Pennell served as an assistant coach for Sutton at Oklahoma State, for Olson at the University of Arizona and for Rob Evans at Ole Miss and Arizona State. He was interim head coach at Arizona in 2008-09 when Olson retired due to health concerns and led the Wildcats to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Pennell was head coach at Grand Canyon University from 2009-2013, a school currently transitioning to NCAA Division I. He put together a 72-44 overall record, including a 23-8 mark in 2012-13, and took the Antelopes to consecutive NCAA Division II national tournaments.
Pennell coached the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA in 2013 and guided the team to the Western Conference finals.
Pennell played for the Bears from 1982-84 and played in 58 games. He still holds the career assist record with 341 in just two seasons. Pennell is also No. 2 in season assists with 220 during the 1983-84 season. His single-season average of 7.6 assists per game in 1983-84 is still the top average in school history.