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Pennell intent on ‘growing’ program at Grand Canyon

Russ Pennell confers with UA guard Nic Wise. Pennell will become the new coach at Grand Canyon. Wise. a junior, may soon announce his bid for the NBA.

Russ Pennell confers with UA guard Nic Wise. Pennell will become the new coach at Grand Canyon. Wise. a junior, may soon announce his bid for the NBA.

Russ Pennell, coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in his only year at Arizona, will become the new men’s basketball coach at Grand Canyon University.

Grand Canyon informed current coach Dan Nichols on Wednesday about the decision to bring in Pennell.

“I’ve been saying all along that I want to coach college basketball, I want something I can be passionate about, and something I can believe in – and growing this program and staying in Arizona is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Pennell said in a statement released by Grand Canyon.

A news conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Phoenix to introduce Pennell.

The 47-year-old Pennell, who took over for Lute Olson before the start of last season on an interim basis, has agreed in principle to a long-term deal.

Pennell will take over a Division II program that went 13-14 in Nichols’ only season. Pennell guided UA to a 21-14 record and kept alive the Wildcats’ streak of 25 NCAA Tournament bids.

Grand Canyon is petitioning to become Division I in basketball.

The school also plans to build a 6,000-seat basketball arena. The school likely would move up from Division II after next season, but it would have to go through a four-year probation period before becoming eligible for the NCAA Tournament.

Pennell formerly was an assistant coach under Rob Evans at Arizona State and ran the Premier Basketball Academy in Gilbert for elementary and high school players.

During the Final Four, which Pennell attended in Detroit, he told the Tucson Citizen that he had a few options.

He will become the second former UA head coach to guide Grand Canyon.

Ben Lindsey coached the Antelopes from 1965-81, taking them to a NAIA national title before being named the UA coach for the 1982-83 season. He went 4-24, 1-17 in Pac-10 play, and was fired after one season. UA then hired Olson.

Nichols came to Grand Canyon after spending seven seasons as head coach at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.



Year(s) Coach Record

1949-51 Howard Mansfield 2-19

1951-60 Dave Brazell 112-85

1960-61 Don Reed 12-10

1961-65 Dave Brazell 39-49

1965-81 Ben Lindsey 317-137

1981-83 Jay Arnote 40-19

1983-86 John Shumate 58-33

1986-88 Paul Westphal 63-18

1988-90 Bill Westphal 51-15

1990-04 Leighton McCrary 217-177

2004-08 Scott Mossman 65-47

2008-09 Dan Nichols 13-14

2009- Russ Pennell -

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