Off the top, you need to know that Memphis is 13-7 and tied for fifth in the American Athletic Conference. This wasn’t expected to be a good year for the Tigers, and it isn’t, though it has been a big improvement from the final season with Tubby Smith.
But first-year coach Penny Hardaway has noticed that other college coaches nonetheless seem a little like some jealous haters, if you ask him.
From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
"“I’m getting used to it as a coach because there’s a little jealousy from a lot of these coaches around the country,” Hardaway said. “I do understand that because we are NBA players and didn’t have any experience as college coaches. So we didn’t quote, unquote, ‘Pay our dues.’ So these college coaches and their so-called boys in the media are going to always throw jabs at us.”"
Hardaway, who replaced Smith in March, wants as much of an NBA flavor as he can get in his program. He hired former NBA players Mike Miller and Sam Mitchell as assistant coaches and has made some changes to Memphis’ facilities, to make them more like what you’d find in the NBA.
He thinks the NBA thing might be the cause of some jealousy, and he also suspects some people think he had something to do with Smith’s ouster.
" Hardaway isn’t sure why he’s received more flak for the coaching leap than other coaches such as Clyde Drexler or Patrick Ewing, but he speculated that it could be because of his involvement in AAU basketball or the way that former coach Tubby Smith was dismissed. He even suggested that some coaches potentially could think he had something to do with Smith’s firing. “Maybe they were a friend of (Smith’s), or, maybe they thought that he was done wrong,” Hardaway said. “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.” "
Evidence of all this jealousy is a little difficult to find. The Commercial Appeal cited this tweet from Tom Penders.
The thing is, Penders hasn’t coached a college basketball team in eight years, and he’s never been known to be shy on Twitter. Further, what he said in this tweet hardly classifies as hating. A win over UCF proves little and Penders is pretty much just speaking facts here.
More likely, what’s irking opposing coaches — assuming they are, indeed, irked, as Hardaway says — is that they see Hardaway as a glorified AAU coach (which he was) whose NBA fame and connections are going to help him skip ahead in the coaching line, so to speak.
" “Nobody is going to actually say that to you. But it is what it is. You hear the rumblings. We’re all fighting for the same kids. You have to tell the kids something different, or whatever. I just feel like I never have to downgrade another school. I just tell them what I can do for them. “We pose a problem for a lot of colleges and a lot of teams that didn’t have that problem from this school at all over the last eight or nine years,” Hardaway added. “We are quote, unquote, ‘taking’ the kids from coaches that have been able to easily get them at their school. So, there’s going to be a target.” "
It’s hard to say from here how much of this is real, but there’s no doubt that if Memphis is getting players, there are going to be some bigger schools who are really mad about that.