Once reports surfaced on Sunday that Memphis head basketball coach Penny Hardaway had interviewed for the Orlando Magic’s HC vacancy, the Grind City had been preparing for the worst.
When I saw the news Sunday, I immediately texted Memphis sports radio titan Chris Vernon, who replied, “I mean, people don’t interview for jobs they don’t want.”
It’s unclear whether or not Orlando offered Hardaway the job, but he announced on his Instagram page Tuesday night that he’s staying with the Tigers.
He told Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, “I couldn’t step away from what I started. One day it would be a dream to coach in the NBA, and the Orlando Magic, but we still [have] unfinished business at Memphis.”
Indeed, Hardaway has made big splashes in the recruiting scene during his three-year tenure at his alma mater. However, the Tigers haven’t made the NCAA Tournament yet, settling for a pair of NIT bids.
Hardaway led Memphis to the NIT title this past year to cap a 20-8 season. He went 21-10 in 2020, but the postseason was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In Year 1, Hardaway finished with a 22-14 record and the Tigers were bounced from the NIT in the second round.
He owns a 63-32 overall record (66.3%) with a 32-19 mark in AAC play.
Hardaway is staying in his hometown and bringing in an Hall of Fame assistant to join his staff. Later Tuesday night after Hardaway committed to remaining at Memphis, he announced the hiring of Larry Brown.
The 80-year-old Brown resigned after a three-year tenure at SMU in 2016 when he and the school couldn’t agree on a contract extension. Brown had compiled a 94-39 record, including a runner-up finish in the NIT and one NCAA Tournament bid.
However, the program was placed on probation and ineligible for the postseason in his third year after the NCAA ruled Brown had failed to report violations of academic fraud by a former administrative assistant. He also lied to the NCAA enforcement staff about this knowledge of the violations, resulting in his suspension for 30 percent of the Mustangs’ games in the 2015-16 campaign.
Since then, Brown has coached just once. He was named the head coach of the Auxilium Torino, an Italian basketball club in the LBA. However, Brown was fired after the team started 5-19 in his only season.
Hardaway played for the Magic during the first six seasons of his storied NBA career, helping Orlando to the postseason five times.