If you thought things were heated on the court and immediately after the game when No. 3 Tennessee took on Memphis on Saturday, then get ready for an inferno blast now.
Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said after Saturday’s game that he believed Tennessee’s players had their “fists balled” and were ready to fight during a minor altercation during a timeout in the closing minute of the Vols and Tigers’ match-up on Saturday. Tennessee’s Jordan Bone and the Tigers’ Alex Lomax and Jeremiah Martin were all whistled for technical fouls during the exchanging of words, but no physical altercations took place during the incident.
On Monday night, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes joked on the Vol Calls radio show about Hardaway’s comments, and he added during his Tuesday press conference that he wasn’t pleased with Hardaway’s accusations about his players.
Apparently, Hardaway took those comments pretty hard.
Hardaway met with the Memphis media on Tuesday for a press conference, and he was asked if he regretted his assertions after Saturday’s game. He said he didn’t and he had some very, very strong words for Rick Barnes.
“No, come on man, honestly, if you just watch the film I’m not making anything up,” Hardaway said according to The Commercial Appeal. “We even had it one the phone. I don’t know who Rick Barnes thinks I am, but I’m not a dude that’s going to mess around about anything. I just call it like I see it. No matter how he’s trying to make things seem, and I think its kind of low class how he’s trying to downgrade my guys for flopping and all that.
“Man, come on, give me a break.”
Hardaway would continue on about the allegations of his players “flopping” during the game to draw fouls. And in that response, he continued to berate Barnes.
“As a coach you’re going to try to teach charges, you’re going to try to teach to be smart,” Hardaway continued. “We were smaller. They played a physical game, and we knew that, and the calls just didn’t go our way. As far as flopping, that’s not something that we teach. We don’t even understand that term, but he seems to be focusing on the wrong thing, man.
“He’s blessed to have the No. 3 team in the country and he should be happy with that. And we will see each other again, for sure.”
Hardaway doubled down on his “fists balled” comment from Saturday, stating that Barnes would “eat those words” because there’s evidence on film of UT’s players doing exactly what he claimed they did.
He then continued, saying he treats opposing coaches with respect as long as he feels he’s getting it in return. But he says he doesn’t feel he’s getting that from Barnes right now.
“I’m going to stay respectful as long as I have to, but Rick Barnes is doing a little bit too much,” Hardaway added. “He really is.”
Tennessee and Memphis have always had a heated rivalry on the court, and the five-year hiatus the two teams had for their in-state series didn’t do anything to dampen that animosity. Hardaway was asked if Saturday’s incident and the days following have added to the rivalry, and he said “absolutely it does,” adding, again, that he think Barnes’ comments were “low class.”
“Maybe he wants to get the upper hand on me or whatever,” Hardaway stated. “I have no complaints about anything else, I just called it like I saw it, and the comments that he made about my team when it comes to the flopping and all that: That’s low class. I would never do that to another team.”
Hardaway would end his press conference by saying, “Rick Barnes, get the (expletive) out of here.”
Tennessee defeated Memphis 102-92 on Saturday, ending a three-game losing streak to the Tigers. The Vols improved to 15-11 all-time against the Tigers with the win. Hardaway has now lost to the Vols both as a player and a coach. He was 0-2 against the Vols when he played for Memphis in the early 1990s, and now he’s 0-1 as a head coach.