Penny Hardaway

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Memphis’ Penny Hardaway, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes engaging in heated public feud

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The Memphis and Tennessee rivalry has reignited into one to watch at all times thanks to a testy back-and-forth between head coaches Penny Hardaway and Rick Barnes.

During Tennessee’s win over Memphis, things got heated in the final minutes as the Vols’ Jordan Bone and the Tigers’ Alex Lomax were issued double technicals for jawing a bit. It didn’t seem like much of anything at the time as the game ended without much further incident. But Hardaway made some remarks after the game making it sound like Tennessee was trying to potentially instigate a fight.

“I said [to referees], ‘The entire Tennessee team ran over to fight,'” Hardaway said after the game. “Their entire team emptied the bench to run over. They didn’t come over because it was a timeout.

“You could visibly see guys with their fists balled, talking trash to our guys. It was almost like a standoff. I was asking the referee why they were able to come across the line into our area and not get a technical.”

Hardaway also stood up for Lomax as the type of person who wouldn’t normally engage in trash talk.

Barnes took a subtle jab at Hardaway in return on Monday during an appearance on Vol Calls.

The response from Barnes appears to have ruffled some feathers with Hardaway, as he made it personal with his latest comment to the Tennessee coach.

It doesn’t sound like this one is going to be over for a bit. Stay tuned on this one…

Memphis grabs four-star 2019 wing D.J. Jeffries

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Memphis landed another quality prospect on Saturday morning as four-star Class of 2019 wing forward D.J. Jeffries pledged to the Tigers.

The 6-foot-7 Jeffries has been a known national prospect since his freshman year of high school as he’s the No. 48 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2019 rankings. A native of Olive Branch, MS, Jeffries often found himself playing with Memphis-area grassroots programs, as he’s a familiar face when it comes to Memphis recruiting.

A solid athlete with some skill, Jeffries should be able to come in and potentially impact the Memphis rotation right away. Previously committed to Kentucky, Jeffries is a huge grab for head coach Penny Hardaway as it now gives the Tigers a second four-star pledge in the Class of 2019 as he joins four-star forward Malcolm Dandridge. Considering how Hardaway has done with recruiting the spring Class of 2018, and now with the Class of 2019, he’s done a great job of quickly bringing in local and regional talent to restock the Memphis roster.

Now that Jeffries is committed, the big focus will turn to Class of 2019 five-star center James Wiseman. Considered by some to be the No. 1 prospect in the class, Wiseman is a Tennessee native who played for Hardaway at Memphis East High School. Memphis is a finalist for Wiseman along with Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State and Vanderbilt.

Report: Memphis offers Larry Brown a consultant job

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If Larry Brown is going to join Penny Hardaway’s staff at Memphis, it reportedly won’t be as a full-time assistant.

The school has offered Brown a consultant job rather than the full-fledged gig he’d been eying with Hardaway and the Tigers, according to a report from the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Brown’s resume is as impressive as it is troubling for any school considering bringing him aboard. He’s the only coach in history to win both an NCAA and NBA championship. He’s a 1,500-game winner and a Hall of Famer. He’s also run afoul of the NCAA at every head job he’s had and abruptly resigned at SMU amid a contract dispute.

His skill set and experience would no doubt be of immense value to Hardaway, who is taking the head job at his alma mater after coaching solely at the high school and grassroots level after his All-Star NBA career. A veteran voice on the sideline and in practice would seemingly be a necessity for the rookie coach, but given Brown’s NCAA compliance track record, it’s more than fair for Memphis to be wary bringing him aboard.

Hardaway has immense respect for Brown after their one year together with the New York Knicks, but he’s putting his new employer in a bit of a bind by trying to hire him – either as an assistant or a consultant. Allowing Brown to come on as a consultant seems like a compromise given Hardaway and Brown want him as one of the three assistants while Memphis’ administration would probably be just fine with Brown not being a part of the staff altogether.

The bottom line, though, is that Hardaway will probably be a better coach with Brown advising him. The question will be if Brown is willing to accept a job description that would limit his ability to coach on the floor.

Tubby Smith vs. Penny Hardaway intensifies at Memphis

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There are plenty of reasons that Memphis might fire Tubby Smith after this season. Attendance is way down, the Tigers are set to miss the NCAA tournament for a second-straight year and the general health of the program is in question after losses to the likes of East Carolina and South Florida.

Plus, recruiting hasn’t been very good. Smith’s 2017 class featured a bunch of marginal recruits and junior college players. Things don’t look much better in 2018. So while the present isn’t great for Memphis, the future, in large part because of the recruiting, isn’t exactly appearing bright.

Well, Smith’s long-time attorney has a theory why recruiting may be such a struggle for Smith, and he points the finger at his rumored potential successor, Penny Hardaway, who heads the ultra-loaded grassroots program Team Penny in Memphis.

“If you’ve got somebody that wants the job and they’re controlling most of the talent in the city, I’m not casting aspersions. I’ll let you draw conclusions,” Ricky Lefft told the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Friday “But (Smith) gets hit with by the local media that he’s not getting the Memphis kids. They’re recruiting the Memphis kids. They’re bringing them on official visits. They’re making the phone calls. They’re going to the games. They’re talking to the parents.

“It would only be speculation on my part on what’s going on there, but it’s the worst kept secret in America that (Hardaway) wanted the job and there may come a time when coach has exited that he’ll get the job.”

Team Penny currently has four players ranked in the top 100 in the 2019 class, and Smith hasn’t signed a Memphis kid in his two years on the job.

Whether it’s the case that Hardaway, a Memphis alum and former NBA all-star, is actually keeping kids from joining his alma mater as some point of leverage to drive Smith out is obviously unclear, but it’s a pretty pointed accusation to make. For Smith’s representation to say it to a newspaper is incredibly bold and probably a pretty good indication of how much jeopardy Smith’s job is with the Tigers.

The other thing is that it also serves as an indirect recommendation of the job for Hardaway. If he could keep kids from Memphis, it stands to reason he could get them there if he were the Tigers’ coach. Which would certainly help make the program more competitive.

Aside from throwing speculation Hardaway’s way, Lefft also claimed that Memphis brass told Smith that the Tigers were headed for the Big 12 when they lured him away from Texas Tech two years ago.

The first thing they told him is we’re going to the Big 12. It’s pretty much a lock,” he said. “He gets there and all of a sudden it appears as though they were never really a contender.

“There’s some people that now sit on the board that are some pretty significant folks, along with the president and both the athletic administrators who were part of the process, and (they) represented to him that this was going to happen.”

While the claims and innuendo are hard to prove or confirm, one thing is clear after Thursday – reporters should talk to Lefft more often.