Former Tiger and NBA star Penny Hardaway became the new head coach of the University of Memphis basketball team Tuesday. The Daily Helmsman sports staff of reporters Patrick Graziosi, Christian Fowler, Caleb Hilliard and Abigail Warren and editor Jeremiah Graham discuss his hiring and what it means for the program going forward.
1.What is your reaction to the news of Hardaway being hired?
Christian Fowler: I think it is a great all-around hire for Memphis. I think they got a guy who can come in, rejuvenate the program and get Memphis back to where they should be.
Jeremiah Graham: This is a fantastic hiring. This program needed a shot in the arm. I think Penny is the right man for the job.
Patrick Graziosi: I’m ecstatic with the hire. Staying status quo with Tubby Smith would have continued a financial downward spiral that the administration simply had to rectify.
Caleb Hilliard: Ultimately, I am satisfied by the hire. I am excited to see Hardaway’s unique basketball mind at work as the Memphis head coach. Memphis basketball just opened up a new chapter.
Abigail Warren: I wasn’t surprised. Everything was in place even before Tubby was fired.
2. What do you think this means for the program and the city as a whole?
Fowler: For the program, I think it means they were tired of being mediocre, so they went out and took a chance on a guy who can change it. I think, for the city, it will bring more people back to loving Memphis basketball. They have not had much to be excited about for a while, but this should make the common Memphis fan excited.
Graham: This will bring excitement to the city. Penny is a local hero, and someone who has invested so many years in this community. Fans will show up just because they have one of their own on the sidelines. As far as the program, this hire immediately puts us in the running for blue-chip recruiting prospects because of his AAU ties.
Graziosi: This means the program can once again operate at a top-25 level and regain claim as one of the elite non-power five conference schools in the country. Memphis will be in on the best kids nationally, and season ticket sales will steadily increase in return.
Hilliard: The city will, as a whole, embrace Hardaway. Even if Memphis basketball has an average season in Hardaway’s first year, there will still be popularity around the team because he is a sports icon in this city.
Warren: This city adores Penny, and people from around the country know the name. I think this will bring a lot of money to the program.
3. How does Hardaway’s hiring affect recruiting?
Fowler: This is the place where Penny is clearly the biggest upgrade from Tubby. Penny is a grinder and someone who has been around highly recruited high school kids for years. The relationships he has immediately make Memphis a top choice for 2019 prospects like James Wiseman and Malcolm Dandridge.
Graham: Like I said before, Penny has many AAU ties. He will give us a much better shot at retaining some of our local talent. Combine Penny’s ties with the potential hiring of an assistant like Tony Madlock, and Memphis will quickly return to being an upper echelon school in terms of recruiting.
Graziosi: Memphis will automatically have a foot in the door with many national recruits. Hardaway’s ties to the AAU circuit and his stature in the game of basketball will attract the kind of players and athletes Memphis basketball is accustomed to recruiting.
Hilliard: Hardaway will use the resources he has gained while coaching at East High School. He accumulated elite players and created a network with families in Memphis. Also, high school athletes will want to play for Hardaway because of his basketball icon status.
Warren: I think this is the biggest question. Playing for a former NBA star would be awesome, but Penny has no college coaching experience. I think it will take a year before we really know what Penny will be able to do recruiting-wise.
4.Do you think any players will transfer with the news?
Fowler: I think a couple of guys like David Nickelberry and Victor Enoh could still transfer, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t stay and see what Penny has to offer. Their issues were primarily with Tubby, so the coaching change could cause them to stay.
Graham: I think this depends on what recruits Penny brings in potentially. If there is a logjam at a certain position, I could see transfers happening, but like Christian said, I don’t see why they wouldn’t at least stay a season to see what he has to offer.
Graziosi: I’m not sure any players will transfer unless they are forced to for recruiting purposes. Most of the roster is composed of junior college transfers who probably don’t want to sit out for a season before exhausting their final season of eligibility. I would imagine young building blocks like Jamal Johnson and David Nickelberry would relish the opportunity to play for a Memphis and NBA legend.
Hilliard: I think Memphis will have a completely new-look team for this upcoming season. The graduate transfers were Tubby Smith’s recruits, and the freshmen also came to Memphis to learn under them. Jeremiah Martin will most likely stay because he is a local product, and he has entrenched himself as a leader.
Warren: I think some players will transfer out. “One Shining Podcast” said Davenport could leave for Auburn. Alex Lomax was just granted his release from Wichita State.
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway onlooks the action. Hardaway played for the Tigers from 1991-93.