The basketball program at the University of Memphis has fallen on some hard times. Ever since Tubby Smith was hired to replace Josh Pastner in 2016, the Tigers haven’t had much going for them, as evidenced by a pair of 19-win regular seasons. These struggles have been reflected in the team’s KenPom ratings (Memphis is currently 164th nationally) and in recruiting (247Sports says the Tigers have the N0. 60 recruiting class in America).
With all of these issues — which also include poor season-ticket sales and attendance numbers — Memphis is reportedly considering going in a potentially popular direction. According to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, Smith could be on the way out at the end of the year.
Should that happen, the name to watch to fill his spot would be former Tigers legend Penny Hardaway, who has never been a college coach but is cutting his teeth elsewhere in the coaching world.
The former NBA All-Star currently runs the Team Penny Nike EYBL program and serves as the coach at East High in Memphis — where he has assembled an incredible roster favored to soon win a state championship. Between Team Penny and East, Hardaway has ties to three top-40 players in the Class of 2019 — No. 1 James Wiseman, No. 26 D.J. Jeffries and No. 40 Chandler Lawson.
Additionally, Parrish reported that Hardaway is “actively preparing to be a college coach” and that one person he would target for a spot on his bench is former NBA and college coach Larry Brown. Hardaway was a superstar at the school when it was known as Memphis State, becoming a first-team All-American in 1993 and having his number retired by the program in 1994.
It’s not a massive stretch to say that there is no bigger realistic shot in the arm that the program could get than the one that would come from hiring Hardaway. His name alone is legendary in that city, he has ties to some of the top recruits in the nation, and while he doesn’t have much, Hardaway does have some experience coaching. There are certainly worse ways to swing for the fences than by moving on from Smith and hiring Hardaway.
(Via CBS Sports)