Coach Penny could soon be making the jump from high school to college.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported that the University of Memphis is considering firing Tubby Smith and replacing him with former Magic guard Penny Hardaway, the school’s most famous alum who is currently coaching high school and AAU basketball in Memphis.
SOURCES: Memphis is seriously considering replacing Tubby Smith with Penny Hardaway, who is “actively preparing to be a college head coach” and already identifying possible staff members — among them Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 7, 2018
Hardaway, who averaged 15.2 points and 5.0 assists per game during his injury-plagued career, spent six seasons in Orlando. A four-time All-Star and 1994-1995 All-NBA first-team selection, Hardaway averaged 19.0 points and 6.3 assists per game while with the Magic.
A Memphis native, Hardaway has emerged as a highly successful youth basketball coach and currently has East High in Memphis in contention for a state championship. Along with his Team Penny Nike EYBL program, Hardaway has ties to highly touted prospects, which could be a good indication of his recruiting potential at the college level.
One source told CBS Sports that Hardaway believes he could add impactful recruits immediately and secure commitments from some of the 2019 prospects with whom he’s connected. That alone would change the narrative around Memphis and remove the negativity that has engulfed the program since Smith lost six players to transfer after last season.
The Tigers are currently 19-12 in Smith’s second year as coach. With three years remaining on his contract, Parrish writes that a buyout would cost the university $9.75 million. According to the the Commercial Appeal, Memphis president Dr. David Rudd said that his administration will “evaluate the program at the end of the year,” which is hardly a vote of confidence for Smith. Particularly when one of the area’s most popular figures is a candidate to be his successor.
Hardaway, who spent two seasons at what was then Memphis State, would put a local legend on the bench and generate some much-needed excitement for the program.
Imagine Penny coming in your house.— #HirePenny (@Power6Tigers) March 7, 2018
Showing you this picture.
And saying I want you, come to Memphis. pic.twitter.com/WN6GpQPUNq
Imagine Memphis Madness with Penny Hardaway— Penny4HeadCoach (@Penny4Assistant) March 6, 2018