Attorney accuses Penny Hardaway of undermining Tubby Smith at Memphis
The attorney for Tubby Smith is accusing Penny Hardaway of undermining his client, potentially so the former NBA coach could overtake Smith as Memphis’ new basketball coach.
Smith is 20-12 in his second season as the head coach of the Tigers, but attendance, donations and fan interest seem to be dwindling. Meanwhile, Penny, who is one of the program’s most famous alumni, has become a highly successful high school and youth coach in Memphis. There was a report during the week saying that Memphis is considering replacing Smith with Hardaway.
Smith’s attorney Ricky Lefft spoke on Friday and accused Hardaway of undermining his client, via the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
“If you’ve got somebody that wants the job and they’re controlling most of the talent in the city, I’m not casting aspersions. I’ll let you draw conclusions,” Lefft said, via the Commercial Appeal’s Mark Giannotto.
“But (Smith) gets hit with by the local media that he’s not getting the Memphis kids. They’re recruiting the Memphis kids. They’re bringing them on official visits. They’re making the phone calls. They’re going to the games. They’re talking to the parents … It would only be speculation on my part on what’s going on there, but it’s the worst kept secret in America that (Hardaway) wanted the job and there may come a time when coach has exited that he’ll get the job.”
Hardaway has led Memphis East High School to consecutive state titles and has ties to many top 2019 recruits. It would make sense for the program to make a switch and put Hardaway in charge, both so they can get a talented, famous coach who would energize fans, and the players who come with him. They might have to pay Smith’s buyout to do it, but that could turn out to be worthwhile.