I was saddened to see the news Friday night that Russ Pennell is out as Grand Canyon’s coach after four years — and a 72-44 record — at the school he helped bring to Division I status starting next season.
Grand Canyon will play in the WAC in 2013-14.
Pennell helped hold the Arizona Wildcats ship together in the 2008-09 season after the preseason retirement of Lute Olson. Assistant coach Mike Dunlap, now the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, certainly deserves credit as the mad scientist behind some of Arizona’s schemes that season, but when he didn’t want to be head coach under those circumstances, Pennell became the popular and steadying face of the program.
He directed the Cats to the Sweet 16 (where powerful Louisville wiped out the Cats) and Pennell completely earned a soft stop in the hearts of Arizona fans. There is a hearty ovation waiting for him for whenever he wants to come back and take in a game at McKale Center.
Sounds like the identity of his probably successor at Grand Canyon is the main reason why Pennell and the school reached a “mutual decision” to part ways. Here is the story from the Arizona Republic, our Gannett partner: