Russ Pennell Hired as Grand Canyon University Head Coach

Apr 09, 2009, 17:45 ET from Grand Canyon University

Opportunity to revive and lead promising program at crux of decision

PHOENIX, April 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Grand Canyon University (GCU) today announced that it has hired Russ Pennell, former interim head coach of the University of Arizona basketball team, as its men's basketball head coach.

"GCU has had a strong record of success in the past and Russ is the right person to take our basketball program to the next level," said GCU CEO Brian Mueller.

Pennell is a familiar face in Arizona sports, recently taking a seemingly broken program at the University of Arizona and guiding them to a 21-14 regular season record and a 25th consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament, helping the Wildcats run to the Sweet 16. Often mentioned as a Pac 10 Coach of the Year contender, Pennell entertained many options in his quest to find the ideal environment.

"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.

With basketball as one of its signature sports, GCU leadership is thrilled with Pennell's addition to their coaching staff.

"We can offer things that are important to Russ - security for his family, a chance to build a program and work with kids in a small setting at the only traditional, private university in Arizona," Mueller said.

GCU anticipates that Pennell will help significantly with its recruiting efforts, and has plans to build a state-of-the-art sports arena on its 95-plus acres to support its growing roster of NCAA Division II athletic programs.

"We have ambitious plans to excel in all areas - academics, fine arts and athletics - and the addition of Russ will undoubtedly help us build an enviable basketball program and enhance all other areas of athletics," Mueller said.

Pennell will be GCU's 12th coach since the program started in 1949. The GCU program has won three NAIA national championships.

Before joining the U of A coaching staff as an assistant under Hall of Famer Lute Olson, Pennell was head of the Arizona Premier League. He also provided color commentary for the Arizona State University radio network during the 2007-08 season, and was an assistant coach at Arizona State for six seasons from 1998-2004. He was an assistant coach under Rob Evans at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98) and began his coaching career at Oklahoma State (1990-92). Before joining the coaching profession, Pennell played for the Spirit Express, a traveling exhibition team from Memphis, Tenn., from 1984-88.

Pennell has a degree in physical education from Pittsburg State University and received his Master of Science degree from PSU in 1990.

Pennell is a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and is extremely active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He and his wife, Julie, were married in 1986 and have two daughters.

About Grand Canyon University

Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University is a traditional regionally accredited, private, Christian university offering campus-based and online bachelor's and master's degree programs through the Ken Blanchard College of Business, College of Education, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and College of Liberal Arts. The Phoenix-based school is ranked as having one of the top online education programs by OEDb (Online Education Database). GCU emphasizes individual attention for both traditional undergraduate students as well as the working professional. For more information visit

SOURCE Grand Canyon University