Former college coach Russ Pennell selected to lead Vilonia boys basketball

VILONIA – Most of his career that spans over three decades has been at the collegiate level but Russ Pennell will now coach in prep ranks. The Vilonia School District announced on Tuesday afternoon that Pennell has been named the boys basketball coach, taking over for Troy Campbell who left for the same position at Cabot in April.

Pennell, 63, has had stints at programs including Ole Miss, Arizona State and Arizona. He was named Arizona’s interim head coach for the 2008-2009 season after Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson shockingly retired due to medical concerns and Pennell led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16. He also served as the interim Coach for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2013 and led the squad to the Western Conference finals.

From 2009-2013 at Grand Canyon University Pennell enjoyed his greatest combined success as a head coach, leading the Lopes to a 72-44 record, including 46-22 in conference play, as well as consecutive Division II Tournament appearances in his final two seasons. In his coaching career Pennell has compiled a 143-174 record.

A Pittsburg (Kan.) native, Pennell played one season at Arkansas under legendary Coach Eddie Sutton. His first paid job as an assistant was under Sutton at Oklahoma State. Pennell finished his college playing career at UCA and he was also the head coach for Central Arkansas’ boys hoops squad from 2014-20. He is hoping his fresh start with Vilonia goes much smoother than his time with the Bears, as UCA struggled to a 50-116 record under his direction. Pennell spent the previous two seasons on Rice (Texas) University’s staff.

Vilonia is coming off of a great season in which the Eagles won 22 games, clinched the 5A-Central’s top seed and finished in the state quarterfinals.

(Cover Photo courtesy of the University of Central Arkansas athletics)