Penny Hardaway Rumors: Memphis HC a 'Serious Candidate' for Magic Job After Interview

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJune 27, 2021

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway instructs his team during an NCAA college basketball championship game against Mississippi State in the NIT, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Memphis men's basketball coach Penny Hardaway has reportedly emerged as a "serious suitor" in the Orlando Magic's head-coaching search.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Hardaway has interviewed for the position. 

Hardaway has spent the last three seasons at Memphis, his alma mater, posting a 63-32 record. The Tigers have not made the NCAA tournament under Hardaway but were the 2021 NIT champions. 

Orlando is looking to replace Steve Clifford, who spent the last three seasons with the franchise. The Magic and Clifford parted ways after the 2020-21 NBA season as the team prepares for a full-scale rebuild.

Hardaway, with his college coaching experience and ability to cultivate relationships with young players, could be a solid choice for the rebuilding Magic. While it's unclear whether Hardaway is a tactical mastermind, he's been an excellent relationship-builder at the college level—both in recruiting and developing young players.

“I’m flattered by it because people are even mentioning my name, obviously because of the relationship I’ve had with the Magic over the years,” Hardaway said earlier this month of potential interest in coaching the Magic.  “It’s weird because the timing on it is, I’m now just starting to get into my own as Tigers coach and understand everything that comes along with this and then all of a sudden the Magic job, the people start talking about the Magic job. 

“So it’s weird but my heart is in Memphis. I don’t know what happens in the future. If I did coach in the NBA that would be a place I would want to coach so, we’ll see.”

The Magic have no plans to compete in the near future, so Hardaway could grow as a coach as the roster is coming into its own.

It also does not hurt that Hardaway has significant cache in the Orlando area after playing for the Magic from 1993-1999.