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Pennell Named Interim Head Coach
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/24/2008
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Oct. 24, 2008

TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona director of athletics Jim Livengood announced the men's basketball coaching responsibilities for the 2008-09 season in the wake of Lute Olson's retirement Thursday.

Russ Pennell will serve at the interim head coach, while associate head coach Mike Dunlap and assistant coach Reggie Geary will remain in their current positions.

"Russ is a veteran assistant coach with a wealth of coaching experience," said Livengood. "His experience of working in three of the best basketball conferences in the nation will serve us well."

Pennell, 47, joined the Wildcat staff on May 5, 2008, returning to college basketball after spending the last two seasons running the Arizona Premier Basketball League in the Phoenix area. He also provided color commentary for the Arizona State University radio network during the 2007-08 season. Most recently, Pennell served as an assistant coach for Arizona State for eight seasons from 1998-2006.

"This is an exciting opportunity for me," said Pennell. "I look forward to the challenge of leading this program. As the son of a former coach and one who has spent his life around the game of basketball, I'm humbled to get a chance to lead such a storied program."

While working for the Sun Devils under coach Rob Evans, the program amassed a 119-120 (.498) record that included one NCAA Tournament berth (2003) and three trips to the N.I.T.

Prior to his tenure in Tempe, Ariz., Pennell served on Evans' staff at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98). In that span, the Rebels went 86-81 (.515) and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 1997 and 1998. In those two seasons, Mississippi won the Southeastern Conference West Division championship and won at least 20 games. It was the first time the program had posted consecutive 20-win seasons in 60 years.

Dunlap, 50, came to Arizona after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the National Basketball Association's Denver Nuggets. While working under head coach George Karl, the Nuggets compiled a 95-69 (.579) record and made two playoff appearances. The 2007-08 club won 50 games, a first for the organization in 23 seasons.

Prior to joining the Nuggets, Dunlap, a two-time National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Coach of the Year and winner of two national championships, was the head coach at Metropolitan State College, for nine seasons. In his nine years at the Denver, Colo., school, Dunlap posted a 248-50 (.832) record.

Former UA standout Reggie Geary returned to the Wildcat coaching staff after spending the majority of the last two seasons as the head coach of the Anaheim Arsenal in the National Basketball Association's Development League. Prior to that, Geary served as Arizona's recruiting and basketball operations coordinator during the 2005-06 campaign.

Geary, 35, amassed a 36-39 (.480) record in guiding the D-League's Arsenal. First hired as an assistant coach, he was promoted to head coach mid way through the 2006-07 season, leading the team to a 13-12 record over the final 25 games of the season. His 2007-08 club posted a 23-27 record and finished fourth in the West Division.

Legendary head coach Lute Olson announced his retirement yesterday after more than 25 years at the school. Livengood announced that a national search will begin soon to find a permanent replacement.

"I believe that this staff will do a first-class job during the upcoming season," Livengood said. "We will continue to move forward with our efforts to find the next great Wildcat head coach."

Arizona opens the regular season in McKale Center on Nov. 17 against Florida Atlantic in the first round of the Dick's Sporting Goods N.I.T. Season Tipoff. The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU at 9 p.m. MST.

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