It’s not a secret in college basketball circles that the fit between the Memphis basketball program and Tubby Smith has not been great, and it is also not a secret that there are a lot of people in that city and around that program that would love to see their native son, Penny Hardaway, get the job.
Penny is from Memphis. He played at Memphis. He came back to Memphis and now coaches a powerhouse high school program in the city and one of the best AAU programs in the country.
And he has access to players.
The No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019 as well as two other top 40 recruits play for him on one — or both — of those teams.
The issue is money. Smith would be owed $9.75 million if he was fired this year, and that is a lot of buyout money for a program that isn’t exactly swimming in cash, but given the money the program is losing from season ticket sales and a leasing deal they have with the Memphis Grizzlies, who own the FedEx Forum, the money that could be brought into the program with a coach that revives interest from the fanbase could offset some or most of that buyout.
Which is why it isn’t surprising to see this report from CBS Sports saying that Memphis is “seriously considering” firing Tubby and hiring Penny.
What is surprising, however, is that same report lists Larry Brown as a potential member of Penny’s staff, which makes the hire that much more intriguing. One of the issues that has arisen in the past when programs hire a legend is that the name does not always lead to great coaching acumen. It worked with Fred Hoiberg. It hasn’t with Chris Mullin. The jury is still out on Patrick Ewing.
Love him or hate him, the combination of Penny and Larry Brown brings, as one source put it, “instant credibility and phenomenal coaching chops” to the program.
Oh, and that influx of talent would be pretty nice, too.