The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

61° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ex-ASU asst. to join men’s basketball team

    UA class of 2011 prospect Matt Carlino is losing a workout partner and Arizona is about to gain an assistant coach to replace Kevin O’Neill, who has been reassigned within the athletics department.

    That’s after former ASU assistant coach Russ Pennell told his Amateur Athletic Union team that Carlino plays for on Thursday night that he would be the next UA assistant coach, Carlino said.

    But Carlino’s father, Mark, said his family “”kind of knew that was a possibility for a while.””

    UA athletic director Jim Livengood has declined comment on the potential hiring until Pennell can officially be hired. The job must be posted for seven days before a hiring can be made and it was posted Friday.

    Pennell served as an assistant coach at ASU from 1998-2004 and has also worked at Mississippi and Oklahoma State.

    After he left ASU in 2004 he opened the Arizona Premier Basketball Academy and coaches Carlino’s Arizona Premier AAU team. Former Sun Devil Chad Goldstein said Pennell’s client list at the basketball academy has included former Sun Devil and current Indiana Pacer Ike Diogu and current Devils Jeff Pendergraph and Derek Glasser.

    Pennell has also done some work as a color analyst on the Sun Devils’ radio network.

    “”I think he’ll do very well simply because of his passion and his energy level for coaching and working with guys and helping to develop players,”” said Mark, who also coaches his son at Highland High School in Gilbert. “”More than anything he’s a team guy in terms of being part of that staff. He’ll know what his role is and he’ll do everything he can do to make coach Olson’s job easier.””

    Matt Carlino described Pennell as “”very
    passionate, very energetic”” and always teaching players.

    According to Mark Carlino, Arizona Premier runs a motion offense, the type of system Pennell prefers, and plays man-to-man defense about 90 percent of the time, adding he’s a good Xs and Os coach.

    T.J. Benson, a Weber State player who attended a Phoenix-area high school and trains with Pennell, called him “”one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever been around with basketball.””

    Benson will be a fifth-year junior at Weber State next season because of a string of injuries. He said Pennell has been there to talk to him when he was going through these down periods in his basketball career, calling him a “”great guy”” off the court.

    “”He always told me, ‘If you ever need to talk, give me a call,’ and I’ve done that,”” Benson said. “”Off the court he’s easy going. On the court he’s intense, but off the court I don’t know many people who don’t like Russ.””

    Added Mark Carlino: “”He’s a great guy, very high character guy. Just an extremely, extremely good person, good family man and just a very, very good person. He’s a better person than he is a coach.””

    Matt Carlino, who received a scholarship offer from Arizona in seventh grade and was named Rivals’ No. 1 eighth grader in the nation last year, said he has a “”really close relationship”” with Pennell, which he described as “”pretty special.””

    “”Not a lot of people get to have that relationship with such a good coach,”” said Carlino, who has worked with Pennell for three years.

    Matt Carlino said Pennell has made him more confident because he knows he’s being trained the right way.

    Matt Carlino has been offered by ASU and Washington State as well as a host of other schools, but has the local schools in his blood, as his uncle Brock Brunkhorst was Lute Olson’s first point guard at Arizona while his dad chose to play for ASU.

    In December, Carlino said Arizona would “”always”” be one of his top choices, and Pennell’s pending hiring can only help
    his recruitment.

    “”It’s nice to know someone that’s at a program, knowing somebody really well at an elite program,”” he said. “”I guess that’s good.””

    In a family familiar with divided allegiances between Arizona and ASU, Mark Carlino said he is not surprised that a former ASU assistant switched sides to become one of Olson’s lieutenants.

    “”It’s probably a little bit odd just in the sense if you think of it from a rivalry standpoint, but Russ has been removed from the ASU situation for a while,”” Mark Carlino said. “”I don’t think it’s that odd. I think he’s pretty far removed from the ASU deal.””

    More changes on the horizon?

    Pennell’s potential hiring might not be the only change on the coaching staff.

    Livengood acknowledged there have been “”a lot of rumors flying”” around, which have brought up the possibility of the Wildcats bringing in a whole new staff of assistants, but the athletic director shot the rumors down by saying, “”There’s nothing going on.””

    “”There’s rumors starting and stopping and going probably every 15 minutes now, sometimes even more often than that, but there’s no issue right now,”” Livengood said.

    UA assistant coach Josh Pastner declined comment and assistant coach Miles Simon did not return repeated calls from the Daily Wildcat.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search