It’s another day in the land of Memphis Basketball, and another loss has come crashing into the program like a ton of bricks. This time, that loss came in the fashion of an ugly loss at home to the hands of SMU. It wasn’t the type of loss that you could go home and live with either from the opening tip to the final buzzer Memphis was both outmanned and outcoached by SMU.
It truly felt like the team didn’t even care about being out there on the court tonight, and in all honesty, following Penny’s press conference rant, can you blame them? It’s hard to get hype to play for a Coach that acts like a child when things don’t go his win or when he’s uncomfortable with questions that are being asked of him after another embarrassing conference loss.
Here’s the thing, sure, the players didn’t produce tonight, but at the end of the day, each game comes down to the coach. Penny wanted all the smoke, and now that he has all the smoke, he’s running away and not putting his money where his, and that’s sad. Coming into the coaching job at Memphis, Penny had the entire city pulling for him as the prodigal son returns home to lead his team to glory.
Yet, here we are, four years later and following the loss tonight, a lot of folks around the program and the city have started the process of figuring out how to divorce a Coach that meant so much to the program as a player without forever ruining a relationship. The ugly truth of the matter is so complicated that even the best of situations couldn’t solve. In his four years as Head Coach at Memphis, Penny has failed to take the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament or even finish within the top two of the American Atheltic Conference.
It’s not because Penny hasn’t had the team either; during the off-season, Penny assembled what many thought to be a super team with real Final Four potential has turned into a group of guys with no real leadership at the top. We saw it Thursday night following the game when Penny snapped at Geoff Calkins in the postgame press conference when asking Penny if he could get it done at Memphis; “ Stop asking me stupid fucking questions.”
That alone shows the everyday Memphis fan that Penny Hardaway has lost control of the program, and barring any last-second miracle, the Tigers will be missing the NCAA Tournament for yet another season. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Memphis to make a run and shock the entire world by winning the AAC Tournament in March; they certainly have the talent to do so. But, the truth around this program is the fact that Penny Hardaway has lost control of the program and the fan support across the city. Both of which are a deadly combination for the perfect storm of an ugly ending on the horizon for both the Memphis basketball program and the relationship with current Head Coach Penny Hardaway.
In the business of coaching, right or wrong, you’re measured on the number of wins you have and the number of losses you have. Nothing else matters. Right now, Penny has isolated himself on an island that only he can figure out how to bridge, but the stunt he pulled tonight with the local media and fans will put him behind the eight ball until he can prove himself in the ways of more wins in the win column.