Pennell turns down chance to stay as Mercury coach

After coaching the Mercury into the WNBA playoffs, Russ Pennell has turned down an offer to hold that job on a full-time basis.

“My time with the Mercury was great,” Pennell, who presided over a 9-4 regular-season run before guiding Phoenix past the Los Angeles Sparks in the first round of the playoffs, said Friday. “But I’m not taking the job. I just really want to stay in the college game.”

Contacted by FOXSportsArizona.com, Pennell — former men’s coach at Grand Canyon University — said he informed the Mercury of his decision Thursday.

Aside from what he described as a consistently low level of officiating, Pennell said his WNBA interlude was “a great opportunity.”

As the interim replacement after the Mercury fired Corey Gaines, Pennell was able to turn around a 10-11 team that failed to live up to accelerated expectations by shifting its focus to defense. During the final 13 games, the Mercury led the league in defensive field-goal percentage.

But despite his WNBA success, Pennell will continue looking for his best opportunity in the college game.

“There are a couple of things I’m pursuing,” he said.

Also not returning is Mercury president Amber Cox.

According to report in Phoenix Business Journal, Cox – the president since 2011 and a Mercury employee since 2005 – has left the organization. No further details were revealed.