The University of Memphis is overhauling its basketball program, and in the process, it is reportedly going to make the most famous player in school history its head coach. Reports from last week indicated that the university would look to replace head coach Tubby Smith with former Tigers great Penny Hardaway.
The wheels for a coaching change were put into motion earlier in the day on Wednesday, when Smith announced that he had been relieved of his duties after two years. During his time at the helm, Smith led the Tigers to a 40-26 record and a 19-17 mark in conference play.
Despite the modest success on the court, things had gone stagnant at Memphis. With an ultra-talented crop of recruits in the area on the horizon — most of them with connections to Hardaway through his AAU program or high school coaching — it isn’t a shock that the school wanted to shake things up.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Memphis will do that by bringing Hardaway on board. The two sides are reportedly working on a deal that, barring any unforeseen setbacks, will give Hardaway the job.
Hardaway has no collegiate head coaching experience, but he has coached at lower levels and is the single-biggest name the program could realistically hire. And because it cannot be stressed enough, the top three recruits in the city — one of whom, James Wiseman, is the nation’s premier prospect in 2019 — all play for Hardaway at Memphis East High School.
Smith is on the line for a $9.75 million buyout, according to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, but the university doesn’t care. This is the one time where it’s worth forking out nearly $10 million in order to get a Penny back.