MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a historic day for the City of Memphis. Penny Hardaway came home to where it all began in 1991.
It was locally and nationally reported for weeks that Penny would become the head coach of the University of Memphis basketball team, but the fans still showed up in droves to witness the day's events. The press conference wasn't slated to begin until 11 a.m., but fans began showing up to the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center on the UofM Park Avenue Campus around 9 a.m.
University of Memphis President Dr. Rudd began by welcoming Tiger Nation to the press conference and officially announcing Penny as the next head coach.
“It’s a pleasure to see all of you here today to welcome Penny Hardaway as our new basketball coach,” Dr. Rudd said.
Dr. Rudd continued the introduction by talking about expectations for the UofM basketball program and how standards will not be lowered for this basketball team.
Following Dr. Rudd's opening remarks, Athletic Director Tom Bowen spoke.
“What a great day to be a Tiger. It’s an exciting day for our city,” Bowen said.
Then, the man of the hour, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway walked up to the podium. He was welcomed by a large cheer from Tiger fans. Penny stood for a few seconds and soaked it all in.
Now that the press conference is over, let's go through some major things we learned.
- Penny repeatedly said this was a family reunion and wants the 'glory days back.'
Hardaway made it very clear that a spirit and vibe around the team was lost the last few seasons. Penny wants the "feel" back.
“It’s a family reunion. I wanna see the hats, flags, just like the old school days,” Penny said. “Losing is not an option in my mind, it’s not.”
Dr. Rudd echoed that sentiment.
“We need the fans to be back. We need them back now,” Dr. Rudd told reporters.
2 . The financial situation is a huge problem for the University of Memphis.
According to Dr. Rudd, season tickets are down to 4,115 and Memphis is on pace to lose approximately $4.7 million over the last year.
Penny said the way he can fix this issue is by getting local basketball talent to stay home.
3. Current UofM players are onboard with the hire of Penny
Jeremiah Martin, a rising senior for the UofM, spoke with the media about the hiring of Penny.
"It’s great for the city now that a Memphis guy is on the sideline,” Martin said.
Martin first wanted to recognize the importance Tubby Smith had on him the last two seasons, but he said playing for Penny Hardaway will be an 'honor.'
“He’s an icon out there. For me, it’ll be an honor to play for Penny Hardaway,” Martin said.
4 . Penny announces coaching staff hires
A lot of rumors have been circling about who could join Penny's staff, and the man himself announced one addition today.
“Tony Madlock will be on my staff. I had to get my old teammate back. He’ll be on my staff later this week,” Penny said.
Madlock was a teammate of Penny's at the University of Memphis. Penny's facial reactions lit up the room when he was talking about Madlock. Hardaway didn't go into anymore details about who will be on his staff, but added he's looking for 'experience' on his staff.
5 . Penny was aware that LeBron James tweeted in support of him
LeBron James tweeted in response of Penny getting hired Monday afternoon, and Penny was more than aware.
“I’m probably going to call LeBron today and thank him for his tweet. I don’t have Twitter anymore, so I couldn’t responded to his tweet,” Penny told reporters.
Penny even said he received support from NBA greats like Baron Davis and Isiah Thomas.
6 . The vintage uniforms are coming back
Penny was asked about the possibility of bringing back the vintage uniforms from his days playing at the University of Memphis.
“I’m all on board to get the vintage uniforms back," Penny said.
7 . Tiger basketball is number 1
Penny made one last statement about the City of Memphis when it comes to basketball: UofM hoops is still number one in his eyes.
“No disrespect to Grizzlies basketball, but University of Memphis basketball is number one in the city,” Penny said.
Cox Media Group