Rice names Pennell Assistant Basketball Coach

Photo Courtesy Rice Athletics

Rice head basketball coach Scott Pera announced the addition of Russ Pennell as Assistant Coach, Thursday afternoon.
“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.”
Pennell comes to South Main after spending the last two years working with the NBA on its Draft preparation and development.
In his career, Pennell coached six conference Players of the Year, including 1995 sixth overall pick Bryant Reeves of Oklahoma State.
Pennell was the Head Coach at Central Arkansas from 2014-20, where he led the Bears to an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals in 2018. Prior to UCA, he was on the bench of the Phoenix Mercury during the 2013-14 season, serving as Interim Head Coach for the final 13 games and guiding them to the Western Conference Finals.
He spent four seasons as the Head Coach at Grand Canyon from 2009-13. Pennell had a 72-44 record at GCU. In 2010-11, he guided the Lopes to their first winning season since 2006 and followed it with seasons of 19 and 23 wins, leading Grand Canyon to the NCAA Division II tournament in back-to-back years.
In 2008-09, following the retirement of Lute Olson in October, Pennell was named Interim Head Coach at Arizona. He guided the Wildcats to a 21-14 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
In 2004, he founded the Arizona Premier Basketball Academy, serving it for four years. During that time, he developed skills for boys and girls from ages 8-18. Over that time, 27 students earned basketball scholarships.
Pennell was also an Assistant Coach at Arizona State (1998-2004), Ole Miss (1992-98) and Oklahoma State (1990-92). Over that time Pennell’s teams went to five NCAA Tournaments and made three NIT appearances.
Before joining the coaching profession, Pennell played for the Spirit Express, a traveling exhibition team from Memphis, Tenn., from 1984-88.
His collegiate playing career began at Arkansas, playing under Eddie Sutton in 1979-80. The Razorbacks finished second in the Southwest Conference. Pennell transferred to Central Arkansas in 1981 and was a two-year starter at point guard. As a senior, he led the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference with 8.2 assists per game.


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