Penny Hardaway is looking to return the Memphis basketball program to its days as a perennial NCAA Tournament presence, and one of the ways he hopes to do that is by taking on some of the best teams in the nation.
Hardaway, who agreed to replace Tubby Smith this week as the next coach of the Tigers, said one of his first orders of business will be calling coaches like John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski in an attempt to schedule games against their teams.
“I want to play the big boys. I want to know where we stand. I want to go against those guys and learn what makes them great,” Hardaway said. Said he’d call Calipari, he’d call Duke, he’d call Michigan State. Wants to schedule tough because that’s what the fans want.
Memphis reached the Elite Eight twice and played in the NCAA championship game once in Calipari’s final four seasons with the team from 2005-2009. The Tigers were considered a national powerhouse at the time, and they went on to make four NCAA Tournament appearances under Josh Pastner from 2010-2014. Memphis parted ways with Pastner after the team failed to reach the tournament in two seasons after that, and Smith didn’t do much to improve things.
Hardaway wasted no time landing his first recruit after he was hired by Memphis, and that should be one of his strongest areas. If the former NBA star can find ways to attract top talent to the program, scheduling games against teams like Duke and Kentucky shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Penny Hardaway will be the next coach of the Memphis Tigers, according to a report.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported Monday that Hardaway has agreed to a deal to coach the Tigers, replacing Tubby Smith, fired after two seasons at the school.
The 46-year-old Hardaway does have coaching experience, having coached AAU while also embarking on a successful high school coaching career at Memphis East High, where he has won three consecutive state titles.
Though this has been a somewhat messy transition, Memphis will hope hiring an alum such as Hardaway can breathe some life into a program that simply hasn’t been the same since John Calipari left for Kentucky. They haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, and that will have to change.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Mark Giannotto reported Monday that Smith was not told what the meeting was about, though he was expected to receive clarity about his job status. Smith’s future as Memphis’ head basketball coach is in question.
Memphis went 21-13 in its second season under Smith, but fan interest in the program has been waning. There has been speculation that the school has interest in replacing Smith with Penny Hardaway as head coach. Hardaway, a successful high school and youth coach in the area, has ties to many top local recruits.
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.
“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.
Memphis is considering firing Tubby Smith and replacing him with Penny Hardaway, according to a report.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish published a report on Tuesday in which he said Memphis was evaluating its head coaching situation and weighing hiring Hardaway.
Hardaway was an iconic NBA player during the mid-90s when he teamed with Shaq on the Orlando Magic. Hardaway was the No. 3 overall pick in the ’93 draft out of Memphis, where he had starred.
Since ending his playing career in 2008, Penny has gotten into coaching. He has led East High in Memphis to consecutive state titles and is going for a third. Penny also runs a successful youth program.
Memphis’ school president told the Commercial Appeal that the program will be evaluated at the end of the season. Tubby Smith is in his second season as the Tigers’ head coach. They went 19-13 last season and are 19-12 this season.
Beyond his prominence as an alumni who could energize the program and fan base, one other aspect of Hardaway that is attractive is his ties to current top recruits in the 2019 class. Memphis has to be thinking that if they were to give him the job, Penny could use his connections to perhaps get some of his players to join him in college.
Memphis is reportedly targeting an experienced, proven winner and Smith would certainly fit that bill. He won a national title at Kentucky and has taken all five of the schools he’s coached at to the NCAA Tournament at least once, and he’s entered bad situations at Minnesota and Texas Tech and brought them periods of success. That record of success is a far cry from that of former coach Josh Pastner, who took over after the wildly successful John Calipari era and has missed the NCAA Tournament each of the previous two seasons before his recent departure for greener pastures.
It took the University of Memphis all of 24 hours to realize how its basketball fans feel about John Calipari.
On Wednesday, Memphis president David Rudd announced that the Tigers have planned a ceremony to honor Calipari in December. Fans on Twitter immediately went ballistic, flooding Rudd with complaints about the Derrick Rose academic scandal and how Calipari left the school after a Final Four appearance was vacated.
Rudd assured Memphis fans he was listening to their concerns, and he issued a statement on Thursday apologizing for the lousy idea and canceling Calipari’s scheduled appearance.
You can read some of the tweets that angry Memphis fans sent here.
Calipari is credited with putting Memphis basketball on the map, but the reaction probably would not have been as negative if he had won a championship or two. Instead, he got the Tigers close and then skipped town when the future looked grim.
John Calipari has been credited with putting the Memphis basketball program on the map, and his former employer plans to pay tribute to him for that during the upcoming season.
On Wednesday, University of Memphis president David Rudd announced that the Tigers have planned a ceremony to honor Calipari in December. UMass, the school that gave Calipari his first head coaching job, announced earlier this year that it will retire a jersey for Calipari. The Kentucky coach thanked both schools on Twitter.
I appreciate UMass and Memphis for deciding to honor what we were able to accomplish.
But not everyone appreciates what Calipari did for their team. More than a handful of Memphis fans are outraged that Calipari is going to be honored after the infamous Derrick Rose scandal that resulted in a vacated 2007-2008 season, including a Final Four appearance. Rudd said he is listening to all the feedback.
Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner committed a puzzling secondary recruiting violation via the team’s Twitter account Tuesday night when he tweeted the following: “Tony Parker.” Parker is a big man from Georgia and one of the top recruits in the class of 2012, and the Tigers and many other teams would love to have him. Since the tweet qualified as publicly discussing an unsigned recruit, Pastner had committed a violation despite the fact that he deleted it minutes later.
So how did this happen? That’s the entertaining part of the story. According to Pastner, the tweet would have never been sent if not for his wife flustering him.
“My wife was yelling at me because I was on the phone too loud,” he said according to the Commercial Appeal. “I was waking (the couple’s infant daughter) up and waking my wife up because I had the TV on. She was complaining that I not only woke my daughter up, but I also woke the baby inside her up because she’s pregnant.
“So I was waking everybody up, I was getting yelled at and on top of that I was thinking, ‘What’s going on with recruiting?’ and ‘Who am I going to hire?’ and I made a mistake.”
Pastner says he meant to type “Tony Parker” into his search engine but accidentally tweeted it. I’m inclined to believe him, since there’s no reason to think any coach in their right mind would just type a recruit’s name (and only their name) onto the team’s Twitter account. Then again, maybe he’s one of those dudes who’s big into subliminal messaging and feels like the two minutes the tweet was live may have given Memphis an edge. No word yet on how his wife feels about taking the fall. Guess Twitter recruiting violations run in the Pastner family.
H/T The Dagger
Photo credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
It’s been nearly three years since John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky, but don’t tell that to the Tigers’ PA announcer. Memphis’ PA announcer introduced John Calipari as the Tigers’ coach prior to the team’s game against Murray State Sunday. That’s a bit of a problem, considering Josh Pastner is the team’s head coach.
Watch the video below, and listen for all the boos:
That blunder (or intentionally cruel joke?) set the tone for a home loss for the Tigers against Murray State. I’d really like to know how the person screwed that up so badly. It’s probably the biggest on-air blunder we’ve heard since this one.