If MTU had just given him the budget to keep Ian Kallay, things probably would have been different. Let's also not forget the competition MTU was playing against.I don't think Russell deserves as much blame as he seems to get. Given the state of the entire program at the time he coached, I don't think we're able to get a real clear view on how he actually was as a coach. He was trying to field a team with a bare bones budget and tepid institutional support, and that is a tough spot to be in. Granted, I do think he made some mistakes, some of them big mistakes, but he also did many things well, and if he was given the support that Mel was, I wouldn't be surprised if he succeeded as head coach at Tech.
From what I saw, Russell's biggest issue, that was somewhat in his control, was his inability to develop players. Players plateaued in their sophomore seasons way too often, and became complacent as upper classmen. The seasons when Russell had success were ones when he had strong senior leadership, the Mike Batovanja captain season comes to mine (I believe they finished like 16 in PWR that season). The mistake Russell made here was that he didn't do a good enough job of identifying this weakness, and hiring assistant coaches to boost that deficiency. Russell was a great recruiter, he got better talent to come to Tech than it appeared on paper and stat sheets, because that talent didn't develop. Look at Russell's recruits that were able to develop under Mel's regime, they were the first Tech team to get back to the NCAA tournament, were ranked #1 in the country, etc. He also had some pretty highly touted recruits that came in, and did not flourish under him, Jordan Foote was highly regarded out of the BCHL, Shelast was a highly coveted recruit, as were Brett Olson and Ryan Furne. If Russell had made better assistant coaching hires (which, admittedly, may have been difficult with the budget constraints), that were guys that were player development focused coaches, maybe things change a bit? Of course, it is possible that even with this, the lack of budget hamstringed him to the point where he had no chance of succeeding. We'll never know for sure.