MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The vibe heated up quickly Tuesday during University of Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway’s weekly address to the media.
Shade was thrown the Tigers’ way, so he decided to send it back. The target? University of Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes.
“Rick Barnes is doing a little bit too much,” Hardaway said. “He really is.”
To put that into context, the Tigers and No. 3 Volunteers played in front of a sold-out FedEx Forum Crowd Saturday. The Vols won 102-92.
Toward the end of the game a Tennessee player approached the Memphis bench. Hardaway told the referees the Vols’ players wanted to fight.
“He balled his fists up and asked our guys pretty much what was up?” Hardaway said. “He wanted to fight.”
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Barnes took exception during a radio show this week. He even accused the Tigers of flopping, which is looked down upon in the basketball world.
Hardaway said Barnes showed “no class” with his statement.
“I don’t know who Rick Barnes thinks I am, but I’m not a dude that likes to just mess around about anything,” Hardaway said. “I just call it how I see it. No matter how he’s trying to make things seem. I think it’s kind of like low class on how he’s trying to like downgrade my guys for flopping and all that.
“Man come on, give me a break. As a coach you’re going to try to teach charges. You’re going to try to teach to be smart. We were smaller. They, of course, played a physical game.”
This adds even more fuel to the in-state rivalry.
“I think it’s something more on the page of maybe the recruiting that we have to do in the state,” Hardaway said. “Maybe he’s trying to get an upper hand on me or whatever but honestly, I just want to coach my team, make us play hard every game. They played a great game.
“They came in here and won. I have no complaints about anything else. I just called it like I saw it.”
The Tigers and Vols have a three-year deal. They’ll play in Knoxville next season and Nashville the following year.
“He seems to be focusing on the wrong thing,” Hardaway added. “He’s blessed to have the number three team in the country and he should be happy with that. We will see each other again for sure.”
The 5-5 Tigers get back to action Wednesday at home against Arkansas Little Rock.
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