Monday, March 23, 2009

Arizona's Russ Pennell; College basketball's new Steve Fisher?

Is head coach Russ Pennell of the Arizona Wildcats the new Steve Fisher of college basketball?

For sports enthusiasts who don’t remember, Fisher was named “interim” head coach at Michigan 20 years ago just before the NCAA Tournament.

Wolverines coach Bill Frieder had decided to take the job at Arizona State after the season, so Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler responded by saying he wanted a “Michigan man” to coach Michigan. (Ironically, Frieder was an alumnus of Michigan; Fisher was not.)

We know that improbable situation ended with Fisher winning his first six games as a head coach in leading the Wolverines to the national championship.

Now we have Pennell as the “interim” head coach at Arizona, replacing Lute Olson last October when Olson retired due to health issues.

All Pennell has done is lead the Wildcats to a nearly impossible spot in the Sweet 16; especially considering that a multitude of people believed San Diego State (Fisher’s current team), Saint Mary’s or someone else deserved to be in the NCAAs instead of Arizona.

Despite being in the Sweet 16, Pennell is not even going to be considered for the permanent job … why not?

He was an assistant coach at Arizona State from 1998-2006, as well as an assistant at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98).

He began his coaching career at Oklahoma State University from 1990-92. The Cowboys advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in both of Pennell's seasons in Stillwater.

The past two seasons, Pennell was a radio analyst for Arizona. And that’s not a bad background, considering that opposing coaches are more likely to spill their secrets to a radio analyst than a current coach.

All things considered, Pennell should at least be considered for the permanent job at Arizona.

After all, he may become the next Steve Fisher!


sam said...

Good stuff, but remember that Fisher won his first six games as a head coach in the NCAA Tournament. Pennell was only 19-13 this season before getting hot when it mattered most.

Anonymous said...

The Wildcats should keep Coach Pennell. He got them to the Sweet 16. What more do you want from a team that lost its longtime coach just before the season?