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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Does Russ Pennell have a chance at coming back?

    ou want an experienced coach to lead your 2009-10 UA men’s basketball team? You want a Pitino, an Izzo, a Dixon or a Calipari? Well, one of those coaches comes with a hefty price tag and yet another change.

    And we all know how little Tucson loves change.

    Why divorce the Arizona program from Russ Pennell when a happy and successful bond has been created? You want experience? Experience is here. Embrace the current connection.

    UA athletic director Jim Livengood could double Pennell’s salary next year and save the program a bundle, along with providing non-graduating players with a coach they already know and love.

    Though he doesn’t quite have total support yet, the coach does have a faithful following. There are two Facebook groups petitioning for Pennell’s return to Tucson. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 185 members between the two groups, including current UA players Zane Johnson, Jordan Hill and David Bagga and former players Mohammad Tangara and Bret Brielmaier.

    But you’d rather have a coach who has experience in the NCAA Tournament, you say.

    Earth to reader: Pennell’s Wildcats are in the Sweet 16.

    Pennell has been to the Big Dance as an assistant five times with three other teams before. From 1990-92, he helped take Oklahoma State to the Sweet 16 two years in a row.

    Oh yes. He has NCAA Tournament experience.

    But not as head coach, you say. Very true. This is his only year as a head coach, but he took a crumbling team, boosted the spirits of the players – and Tucson – and has taken them on a run they will never forget. He has had the coaching maturation of five years smashed into this one season.

    But Pennell won’t be able to bring in recruits, you say.

    If this coach returns as the Wildcats’ head coach, the current returning players will do just that – return. A new coach could spark transfers and a whole new batch of uncertainty, even if it is a successful coach.

    But recruits would also notice that Pennell’s boys went from zero to 16 in less than five months. Imagine all the things he would be able to do with a team that was stable from the beginning.

    And knowing Pennell, he’d be able to sell recruits to the program right away. He’s that experienced.

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