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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pennell cleans out office

    Former UA mens basketball coach Russ Pennell shows his displeasure with a call during a 103-64 Arizona loss to Louisville on Friday in Indianapolis. Pennell said he plans on staying in Tucson until his daughters finish out the current school year.
    Former UA men’s basketball coach Russ Pennell shows his displeasure with a call during a 103-64 Arizona loss to Louisville on Friday in Indianapolis. Pennell said he plans on staying in Tucson until his daughters finish out the current school year.

    The Wildcat family embraced Russ Pennell.

    Now it’s time for Pennell to embrace his own family once again.

    After 155 days on the job, the departing UA interim head coach rests at yet another period of day-to-day uncertainty.

    Pennell cleaned out his office and met with the Arizona men’s basketball team one last time on Monday in a loose, light-hearted, brief meeting before the staff went its’ separate ways, he said.

    Pennell met with UA athletic director Jim Livengood Tuesday for a very general exit interview, Pennell said, in which Livengood was “”complimentary of what we’ve done.””

    Now that he has completed all his administrative work, Pennell said he’ll take a wait-and-see approach to finding his next job – preferably as a coach somewhere.

    Although he has received some third-party inquiries, Pennell said he has not taken measures to finding a job – but instead, has taken a day-to-day approach in the current preliminary stages.

    “”Interesting thing about coaching, and I’ve said this before, I think it’s just one notch above working in the circus or the carnival – you’re going to move a lot,”” Pennell said. “”I think that you understand that basically it’s year to year.””

    For now, Pennell said he probably won’t relocate until after his daughters, Morgan and Emily, finish their respective school years.

    Quality of life, he said, will certainly play a big role into deciding his next job.

    And just as any average young family faces, any relocations are difficult with children and teenagers going through schooling systems.

    Pennell himself grew up as a coach’s son, having to move a number of times for his father, Dewey. Although the relocations weren’t a long distance – Dewey coached high school basketball – it was still second nature to not be able to anchor into a neighborhood, Russ said.

    “”That’s the only thing that’s a drawback (in coaching) because it’s real hard to put down stakes and roots,”” Russ said. “”Especially now that my children are getting older. I have a seventh grader – gosh that’s a task in itself, raising a teenager.

    “”Start moving them around a lot, that can be difficult,”” he added. “”(My next job) just has to be something first of all that I believe in, that I can be passionate about, that my family can be happy. My girls, they’re limited in their approach where they want to go. I’m not going to let them totally dictate that, but when you live in a household of women like I do, (I’m) a minority all the time.””

    Russ said one of the most emotional parts to his storybook season ending was realizing the journey with Dewey would be over.

    Russ assigned Dewey the role of Director of Basketball Operations just a few weeks into the season for his unbiased insight as a former basketball coach.

    In the locker room after losing to No. 1-seeded Louisville last Friday, Russ and Dewey exchanged a thank you, then a hug that brought tears to both their eyes.

    “”That was probably the most difficult thing about finishing against Louisville,”” Russ said. “”It probably was the last time that we would work together. … I think I had more of the emotions right after the game in Indianapolis – it hit me pretty hard.

    “”Even if I got another job somewhere, I think it would probably be best to let Dad stay with my Mom,”” Russ added. “”She was good this year, but I don’t know about after this.””

    Added a choked-up, teary-eyed Dewey after the hug: “”I just thanked him for, you know, bringing me along basically. This really meant a lot to me. I’ve really enjoyed working with him and working with the guys. You’re around these guys and you learn to love them.””

    Pennell’s other family – the players on the Wildcats’ roster – will also be tough to let go.

    He told the team they could count on him if they need him, offering assistance or support to anybody, regardless of where he went.

    “”You spend more time with your players than your family,”” Pennell said. “”When you’re around people for six months, day after day, hour after hour, then all of the sudden … they’re not in your life anymore – that’s kind of an odd thing to contemplate. That’s kind of an odd thing to go through. You miss that.””

    Louisville ‘ripe for what was going to happen’

    Did it surprise Pennell that No. 1-seed Louisville lost to No. 2 Michigan State in the Elite Eight?

    “”No. Not after the way Louisville acted after the game (against Arizona),”” Pennell said. “”I just thought their whole approachÿ- I just felt like they were ripe for what was going to happen (in) the next game. … I thought they were very arrogant.””

    Pennell said after reviewing the game, he saw “”some mugging for the camera”” from arrogant Cardinals.

    After the game, nothing was said between UL coach Rick Pitino and Pennell.

    “”Just the way they acted, it’s almost like they had accomplished something,”” Pennell said. “”All they’d done was took a step closer to the Final Four.””

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