Penny Hardaway has struggled mightily as head coach of his alma mater, the University of Memphis, but that was to change this season. With the arrival of five-star talents Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates, plus a lot of talented returning players, the Tigers were ranked as high as No. 12 in the preseason Top 25.
The team reached a ranking as high as No. 9 early in the season. But currently sitting at 11-8 and in fifth place in the American Athletic Conference, doubts continue to rise. Is Penny the man to lead another Memphis squad that’s loaded with potential, but hasn’t been ranked in the Top 25 since Week 4 of the season?
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) February 7, 2022
Penny has shown some frustration as well, like when he cursed at reporters following a loss to SMU in January. A reporter asked if he’d lost faith in his ability to lead and get it done at Memphis.
“I think the one thing I can say to this media because the media kind of gets (expletive) up sometimes when it comes to me. We don’t have our full roster. Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. Stop asking me stupid (expletive) questions about if I feel like I can do something … I’m coaching really hard. My boys are playing really hard. I’m not embarrassed about nothing. We have four freshmen starting. Y’all need to act like it. Act like we got 17- , 18- and 19-year-olds out here trying to learn how to play against 22- , 23- , and 24-year-old guys, come on, man. Stop disrespecting me, bro. Like don’t do that. I work too (expletive) hard. I work way too hard for that. Y’all write all these (expletive) articles about me and all I do is work. We got young kids on the floor.”
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) February 8, 2022
While he did issue an apology a couple of days later, the cracks in the program and its leader were on full display. Penny hasn’t had a ton of success during his tenure, never making the NCAA Tournament, but this year was supposed to be different. With the nation’s top recruiting class in tow, many expected that to change with Penny finally putting his stamp on the program and making a deep March Madness run.
Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Penny’s problems.
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) February 9, 2022
Emoni Bates May Be Done On Beale Street
Freshman phenom Bates reclassified to the class of 2021, but at the time he was only 17. Bates recently turned 18, so he won’t be eligible for the upcoming NBA Draft in June because he’s not yet 19.
Penny moved mountains to recruit and secure Bates, even bringing Rasheed Wallace into the loop.
Bates has been dealing with a nagging back injury that has sidelined him at different times this season. When he’s been available, his numbers have been a bit underwhelming — as he’s averaged 10.4 points and 3.6 rebounds on 39% shooting and 33% from three-point range.
Some had called Bates a generational player when he won Mr. Basketball in Michigan as a freshman.
With Bates’ injury and his inability to cash in on the NBA until the 2023 draft, some believe he’ll leave college and go play for an NBA G-League team or take his talents overseas for a season.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 17, 2021
Bates’ father disputed the claims, saying in an interview with CBS Sports:
“I have no clue what that’s about. He’s been having pain and we’re going to figure out what’s going on.”
A quick start, then swan dive, followed by a profanity-laced tirade from a head coach who looks in over his head are not what the Tigers coaches, players or brass expected. But what’s even more disturbing is they could also lose a top-five recruit from the 2021 class. Neither situation helps the program now or going forward.
This week, Hardaway lost the commitment of three-star prospect Noah Batchelor, who’s the No. 48 overall recruit. His de-commitment is the third already for the Tigers, and Hardaway with the 2022 class.
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