After being hired by the Memphis Tigers despite having no prior collegiate coaching experience, former NBA player Penny Hardaway is working on silencing his critics.
Hardaway said the following Monday, per WREG TV's Mike Ceide:
"I'm getting used to this as a coach because it's a little jealousy from a lot of these coaches around the country," Hardaway said. "I do understand that because we are NBA players trying to come back, and we didn't have any experience as college coaches. So we didn't quote, unquote, 'Pay our dues.' So the coaches and their so-called boys that are in the media, they're going to always throw jabs at us."
Hardaway's coaching staff features a number of former NBA players, including Sam Mitchell and Mike Miller.
Hardaway, who attended Memphis from 1991 to 1993, was hired last March to replace 2003 NCAA Coach of the Year Tubby Smith, who was fired despite leading the Tigers to a 40-26 record in two years on the job. The four-time NBA All-Star isn't ruling out Smith's dismissal as a reason for some of the criticism.
"Maybe they were a friend of [Smith's], or maybe they thought that he was done wrong," Hardaway said, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Drew Hill. "But there's more attention on me around the country for a guy that's coming in his first year. And they know how hard that is."
The early results for the 47-year-old Hardaway have been mixed (13-7). However, he has landed the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019 in 7-foot center James Wiseman.
Per ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello, Hardaway was involved in a war of words with Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes last month following a 102-92 loss to the Volunteers, though he didn't name any opposing coaches specifically this time around.
Hardaway added: "I'm not here to ruffle any feathers. I just want to win. We want to win."
For the 2019 class, 247Sports has Memphis ranked 12th thanks to one 5-star hard commit (Wiseman) and two 4-stars who have signed letters of intent (DJ Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge).