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Pennell has no illusions about permanent top hoops job

Russ Pennell

Russ Pennell

To borrow a much-used phrase from Russ Pennell, he “gets it.”

The Arizona interim head coach knows he’s not in line for the head basketball job, no matter how many times his team beats the likes of Gonzaga the rest of the season.

“I’m not sure at this point in time it would be in my best interest or the best interest of the university,” Pennell said Tuesday about getting the head position. “Never say never, but I really haven’t given it tons of thought.”

Pennell, 48, has been realistic since taking the interim job a day after Hall of Famer Lute Olson retired Oct. 23. UA athletic director Jim Livengood said earlier this month that he has a pool of about 12 to 15 current head coaches in his search for a permanent head coach.

That hasn’t stopped some fans from trumpeting Pennell for the job on Web sites and talk radio. The talk intensified after the Wildcats (7-2) upset then-No. 4-ranked Gonzaga 69-64 on Sunday. It was UA’s first win over a Top 10 opponent since Maryland at the start of the 2001-02 season.

Pennell, who is making $500,000 this season, said there are variables that make the transition tough. Recruiting, he said, “is null and void,” at this time. There are no prospects lined up for next season, and Pennell said one of the first questions he gets from recruits is, “Who is going to be the next coach?”

“Right now the program needs a shot in the arm,” Pennell said. “Somebody who can bring in players immediately. I’m afraid my name might not carry enough weight to do that.

“I get what college basketball has become.”

The Wildcats travel to face Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday at 1 p.m., five hours before UA’s bowl game against BYU in Las Vegas.

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UA BASKETBALL

• When: 1 p.m., Saturday.

• TV: Versus.

• Radio: 1290-AM

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Should UA consider interim coach Russ Pennell for the permanent men's basketball position?
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