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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pennell has been on both sides of rivalry

    The rivalry between Arizona and ASU men’s basketball teams may be heated as ever, but not for their respective coaches.

    When Russ Pennell got the opportunity to become an Arizona assistant last spring, he jumped at his chance, but not before letting ASU head coach Herb Sendek know. After all, Pennell was an ASU assistant coach from 1998-2006, and was with the Sun Devil radio network during the 2007-08 season.

    Needless to say, there’s certainly no bad blood between the two coaches.

    “”When you’re at that school, that’s the most important thing to you,”” said Pennell, who referred to himself as “”we”” when discussing ASU during his tenure as a Sun Devils coach. “”That’s your job, those are the people that employ you, and you’re going to give your best. But we’re professionals. We’re basketball coaches, and when you move from school to school there’s still a respect in that.””

    But, of course, that doesn’t mean each coach doesn’t want to win as bad as the players do.

    “”Herb, he told me he thought it was a great opportunity for me, ‘Congratulations, and I’m going to try to beat your tail when I see you,'”” Pennell said. “”And I told him the same thing.””

    Added Sendek: “”Russ and I have a great friendship. It was wonderful to have him together with us here. He was kind enough and thoughtful enough to let me know what was transpiring before it actually broke publicly. I just have the utmost respect for him as a basketball coach.””

    There is plenty at stake for both teams. Arizona is trying to prevent ASU’s first three-game sweep over the Wildcats since 1995.

    “”I think there’s plenty of hatred both ways. And it’s healthy, when I say that,”” Pennell said with a smile. “”When I was at Arizona State, that was the game you wanted to win … U of A. It wasn’t just because they were good, it was because they were the in-state rival, and it’s the same thing here.””

    Last season, then-UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill joked that each time he left a team for another he’d drink whiskey and have a bonfire outside of his home in upstate New York to burn his clothes from his past team.

    Pennell got rid of his Sun Devils gear in a more conventional manner. He invited a few friends over for a garage sale.

    “”But they didn’t have to pay anything,”” Pennell said. “”…My kids may have a T-shirt or two, but I don’t.””

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