It’s been a long road for Head Coach Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers, but there’s hope for a better future following the 2021 NIT Championship run. Over the last two weeks, Memphis has been playing the best basketball they’ve played in the last three years since Penny Hardaway took over as Head Coach. Sure, winning cures everything, but it’s not about winning the NIT. It’s about the future of Memphis basketball, a future that has a foundation of winning and putting the city of Memphis on its back.
It wasn’t always easy for Penny Hardaway and his Tigers, but what they have had to overcome to get to this point is nothing short of amazing. Like the city they represent, these Memphis Tigers play with such grit and grind, and it’s evident in the product on the court. For the first time in over 20 years, Memphis has a basketball coach that understands the city. Head Coach Penny Hardaway has instilled in his team a love for each other. They also understand what it means to put on that uniform that says Memphis on the front of it. We saw an example of that over the last two weeks when Memphis outscored their opponents 297-247 in their four games in the NIT.
So where do Penny Hardaway and the Tigers go from here? Well, winning the NIT Championship is a mighty fine place to build off of for the future. Given the current NBA draft boards, Memphis should expect to return at least 95% of their roster from this season, which would give the Tigers much-needed depth to make a run at the NCAA Tournament next year.
After all, Penny Hardaway has proven himself worthy as a College Basketball coach after a lot of outside noise said otherwise. Penny has also gained a world of respect from his players and the Memphis fan base. When you watch this team play, you can sense the maturity and the love they have for one another. Penny has got his players believing in something bigger than themselves, and for that, the future of Memphis basketball is very bright. A future that is likely to be filled with Final Four’s trips, and maybe even a National Championship trophy, which would be poetic for Penny Hardaway and this season.
No matter what happens next season, or even five years from now, Memphis fans will point to the 2021 NIT Championship season as the one that forever changed the perception of the Memphis basketball program for years to come.