News broke early Wednesday afternoon the University of Memphis is expected to hire Tubby Smith as its next menâ€™s basketball coach.
If this comes to fruition, the next step will be building a strong staff around Smith, for him to succeed and bring the program back to national prominence.
An interesting option for Smithâ€™s lead assistant position is former Tiger great and four-time NBA All-Star Anfernee â€œPennyâ€ Hardaway.
Hardaway was linked as a possible candidate to be the next head basketball coach at the University of Memphis ever since Memphis dropped a game to ECU, 84-83, in late January.
Since he last played for the Miami Heat in 2007, Hardaway has made a tremendous impact in the Memphis community, especially in coaching.
Hardaway just finished his first season as head coach of East High School, in which he led the Mustangs to a 32-2 record and the schoolâ€™s seventh state title.
Now the question is whether or not Hardaway is ready and willing to take a spot on Smithâ€™s staff at Memphis.
No matter whoâ€™s name came up for the Memphis job, whether it was Smith, Gregg Marshall, Buzz Williams, Jeff Capel, Steve Forbes or Bruce Pearl, fans and media continued to bring Hardaway into the mix.
Although itâ€™s not the head gig, this can be a perfect opportunity for Hardaway to come in learn the ins and outs of collegiate coaching and be groomed for the future.
Not only would this be a strong move for Hardawayâ€™s chances as the coach of the future, but having the former star on board as an assistant would be huge for Smith and his staff. Hardaway has a lot of intangibles he can bring to the position.
Hardaway obviously will have strong recruiting ties. Not only is he an icon in Memphis, which is one of the hottest recruiting beds in the nation, but he also runs his own AAU team, Team Penny, giving him multiple AAU contacts throughout the country.
Another area that bodes well for Memphis is fan support. Hardaway is easily one of the top three most beloved Tigers of all time. Not only is he an idol for his All-American level play as a Tiger, but also he put together the most successful NBA career of any former Tigerâ€”and if it wasnâ€™t for knee injuries, Hardaway could have had an even better pro career.
But even after his NBA career, he has given so much back to the Memphis community, whether itâ€™s funding the construction of the Anfernee â€œPennyâ€ Hardaway University of Memphis Athletics Hall of Fame building, or his coaching at Lester Middle School or East High School, he has invested so much to support the Memphis community.
Season ticket sales and FedExForum turnstile counts should be no problem whatsoever for Memphis with Hardaway on staff, as Tiger Nation would gladly return the support to their beloved Tiger great.
This would give Hardaway a perfect opportunity to get on his feet in the collegiate coaching world. College basketball is so much more than just Xâ€™s and Oâ€™s and throwing your best players on the floor. Thereâ€™s recruiting, constant media coverage, dealing with the pressure and spotlight of a fan base and so many little things. Jumping to the collegiate level would be a total lifestyle change for Hardaway. This job could give him and opportunity to adapt to the collegiate coaching and all the little things that come along with it.
Another interesting aspect of taking an assistant position on the Tigersâ€™ new staff is how long Smith has before retirement. Smith turns 65 this summer. Itâ€™s no secret he is rapidly approaching the end of his coaching career. That should be a huge benefit in Hardaway joining Smithâ€™s staff. If Smith decides to stay three to five seasons with the Tigers before retiring, it gives Hardaway a chance to be groomed by a proven head coach before taking over down the line.
Memphis is nationally regarded as one of the most high profile jobs in the country. There are so many little things that go into being the head coach at Memphis. Yes, Hardaway is a proven leader. He has won at a high level as a player and as a coach at the lower levels, but a few years as an assistant will give him time to adjust and prepare for the collegiate level.
If Smith is the right guy for Memphis, let him bring Hardaway in and groom him for the future.