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Former Arizona basketball coach Russ Pennell joins Rice as assistant


Russ Pennell is back coaching college basketball.

The former Arizona men’s basketball interim head coach has joined the Rice Owls as an assistant. Pennell will work under Rice head coach Scott Pera, a longtime ASU assistant under Herb Sendek.

“I have known Russ Pennell for about fifteen years,” said Pera. “I got to know him in our days in Arizona when I was an assistant at ASU. I always respected his knowledge and passion for the game of basketball. All these years later, to have the opportunity to work with him at Rice is amazing. He brings a wealth of experience in recruiting, game planning, relationship building, and player development. He checks every box I was looking for to continue to grow this program as we prepare to move into the AAC next season. Our players will benefit from Russ’s ability to make them better on and off the court. We can’t wait to get started in September.”

This is Pennell’s first college coaching job since taking a leave of absence at Central Arkansas in December 2019. UCA began the 2019-20 season 1-9, putting the writing on the wall that Pennell’s time coaching his alma mater was coming to a close.

Pennell spent the last two years working with the NBA on its Draft preparation and development.

Pennell spent four seasons as GCU’s head coach before moving to UCA in 2014.

In 2008-09, Pennell took over as Arizona’s interim head coach following the retirement of Lute Olson. Pennell led the Wildcats to a 21-14 record highlighted by a surprise Sweet 16 appearance as a No. 12 seed.

Pennell joins a Rice program that went 16-17 last season, reaching the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.