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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Thank you, Russ”

    Thank you Russ Pennell, for uprooting your family from Phoenix to begin a new chapter in your basketball career as an assistant coach for Lute Olson and his UA men’s basketball program.

    Thank you Russ, for embracing the bright lights, tough questions and media onslaught after athletic director Jim Livengood threw you into the firestorm.

    Thank you Russ, for sitting down with the team on day one to provide a sense of security and embraceÿa group of shell-shocked guys all in the same situation. All of them, including you, relocated to Tucson for one reason: to be coached by Lute Olson.

    Thank you Russ, for telling the team: “”All we have is each other, and we’ve got to get through this. We’re in this thing together, and yes, it’s not easy right now, but you’ve got two choices: you can give up or you can fight. And I’m not going to let them give up.””

    Thank you Russ, for doing away with Kevin O’Neill’s stubborn man-to-man defense and set-play offense. These guys were recruited to play Olson’s style, and last season felt like a lemon rubbed against an open wound.

    Thank you Russ, for losing to UAB and picking up two extra wins in Athens, Ga., rather than experiencing an early-season Thanksgiving butt-whoopin’ in New York against top-10 teams..

    Thank you Russ, for embracing two-time scapegoat Jamelle Horne after horrific last-second fouls.

    Thank you Russ, for shielding the team from an unprecedented amount of distractions. See: Losing all ’09 recruits.

    Thank you Russ, for not allowing the vast amount of empty seats in McKale to discourage the team back in November.

    Thank you Russ, for filling those seats back up and setting McKale Center records this season.

    Thank you Russ, for letting David Bagga nail that 3-pointer. He deserved it.

    Thank you Russ, for keeping egos in check and the locker room full of positive chemistry. Two potential first-round NBA lottery picks could’ve easily pursued a personal agenda, ignored some ex-ASU radio commentator and refocus themselves on the Draft.

    Thank you Russ, for sounding like a broken record every time a reporter asked you about your long-term future. Instead, you insisted that your focus remain on the present task here in Tucson, even when long-term job security should be the highest priority in today’s horrid economy.

    Thank you Russ, for shielding the team from an unprecedented amount of distractions. See: Jeff Withey transferring to Kansas.

    Thank you Russ, for keeping your composure along the sidelines and refraining from choking referee Dave Libbey after the ASU game in McKale Center.

    Thank you Russ, for keeping your composure along the sidelines and refraining from choking all referees after the USC game in Los Angeles.

    Thank you Russ, for taking the whole one-game-at-a-time approach through both extremes: Beginning the season 11-8 and then responding with a seven-game winning streak.

    Thank you Russ, for shielding the team from an unprecedented amount of distractions. See: Garland Judkins’s three suspensions.

    Thank you Russ, for establishing unknown players’ roles while knowing your own: An interim coach without any outside motivations.ÿ

    Thank you Russ, for developing Zane Johnson and Kyle Fogg into guys whose jerseys could be sold at the UofA Bookstores next season.

    Thank you Russ, for giving Alex Jacobson time to grow – instead of last year’s interim coach that would just cuss at the young freshman.

    Thank you Russ, for staying humble and avoiding a power trip that a prestigious basketball name like Arizona could potentially entail.

    Thank you Russ, for not giving up and keeping basketball relevant in a spoiled hoops city.

    Thank you Russ, for Bearing Down.

    Thanks Russ, for everything.ÿ

    P.S.: Thank you Aubrey Coleman for stepping on Chase’s face.

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