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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Unchanging focus for Pennell

    Russ Pennell doesn’t have a lot of downtime to think about his future. He really doesn’t have time to think about much more than an orange ball and the things that immediately surround it.

    It’s basketball, basketball, basketball all the time.

    When the UA interim head coach does have any downtime during the current season, he’ll watch his favorite show, “”24,”” work out or read.

    Oh yeah, and there’s that whole thing about being a husband and a father of two girls.

    Sometimes Pennell will walk around his Oro Valley neighborhood – a quick getaway – to think. On Saturday he walked for an hour along the Willamette River near the team hotel in Eugene, Ore. He thought about the future then, but didn’t get past Thursday’s game against USC in McKale Center.

    “”That’s just coaching,”” Pennell said. “”You can’t even sit there and go, ‘Gosh, we just beat Oregon, and swept a road series,’ because we’re only as good as the next game in most people’s eyes.””

    Pennell said he won’t enjoy this season until the end of April. In addition to coaching, he reads and replies to e-mails, has several interviews and press conferences throughout the week, on top of traveling and watching game film.

    But don’t get him wrong,ÿhe’s not suffering by any means. He loves his coaching staff and players. Just look at the recent growth of facial hair throughout the team during the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak. It’s solidarity at its best.

    But when he finally does have some time off at the end of the season, where will he go?

    “”I think my wife’s starting to think about that a little bit,”” Pennell said. “”But I’ve really tried to engross myself in this team. And I did it for two reasons: No. 1, they deserved it as me being their coach. I needed to give it my full attention. No. 2, I knew if I would do that, I wouldn’t have time to think about the future.””

    Pennell didn’t expect to be the next head coach for Arizona (16-8, 6-5 Pacific 10 Conference) when he was coaching AAU basketball last spring. With his one-year contract coming to a close at the end of the season, one might think he wouldn’t want to be anything except a head coach next season, no matter where he is.

    That isn’t the case, though.

    “”There was a day when I was younger when I was consumed with that,”” he said. “”That’s all I wanted. Along the way, things became more important: family. Spending time with my wife and kids was huge, and I really didn’t have to give up basketball to do that.

    Obviously a postseason berth and success in the NCAA Tournament would be a boost to the coach’s résumé, but with 16 total wins, he knows the Wildcats still have a lot of work to do.

    As cliché as it sounds, Pennell will no-doubt take the season one game at a time until he’s out of games. Then he’ll be able to watch his taped “”24″” episodes, spend time with his family and take walks that include thoughts about more than just the next game.

    But no matter what’s next in his life, he’s not worried about it.

    “”The future for me has always worked out wherever I’ve been,”” said Pennell, who has coached at ASU, Mississippi and Oklahoma State. “”I just trust it will happen again. I’ve got great faith, and I know that the Lord will take care of me.

    “”That’s all I can do, is do my best here,”” Pennell added, “”and hope it’s good enough to move me onto the next stop.””

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