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Former Arizona Wildcats coach Russ Pennell hired by Central Arkansas

Basketball coach Russ Pennell is heading back to his alma mater.

The University of Central Arkansas will announce Pennell as its men’s head basketball coach Friday. He will replace interim coach Clarence Finley.

Pennell most recently was the interim head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, taking over the spot on Aug. 8, 2013, after Corey Gaines was fired. The Mercury went 9-4 under Pennell’s helm and made it to the Western Conference Finals.

The 53-year-old Pennell served as the interim head coach at the University of Arizona in the 2008-09 season after Lute Olson announced his retirement. The Wildcats went 19-13 in the regular season and made it to the Sweet 16 during Pennell’s tenure. The interim coach left the school after Sean Miller was hired in April 2009.

Pennell also was the head coach of Grand Canyon University’s men’s team from 2009-13, leading the Antelopes to a 72-44 mark during that time. He resigned from the job on March 15, 2013, and was replaced by former Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle.

Pennell has also served as an assistant collegiate coach at Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Arizona State.

The Pittsburg, Kan., native, returns to the school where he played basketball from 1982-84. Central Arkansas has struggled since Finley took over coaching duties after Corliss Williamson left to join the Sacramento Kings’ staff in August. With two games left to play, the Bears are 11th in the Southland Conference with an 8-19 overall record.