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Memphis’ loss to SMU on the hardwood Thursday night may have just been the straw that broke the camel’s back. After the contest in West Tennessee, which ended in a 70-62 win for SMU, Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway went on an expletive-filled rant during his post-game press conference.
Hardaway’s comments sent a shockwave through the college basketball landscape, which was primarily seen through social media. The video was getting exposure at a rapid rate the second it hit the internet, allowing anyone to hear Hardaway’s profanity.
“I think the one thing I can say to this media, because this media gets kind of f***ed up sometimes when it comes to me,” Hardaway began his answer by saying. “We don’t have our full roster. Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. Stop asking me stupid f***ing questions about if I feel like I can do something. If I had my roster, like [SMU] did, then I feel like I can do whatever I want to do.”
Penny Hardaway has secured two No. 1 recruiting classes at Memphis. This season he’s had a 4-game losing streak and is now riding a 3-game losing streak.
But, he’s upset when asked if he can get the job done at Memphis. Doesn’t want the “Smoke” it seems pic.twitter.com/nwluTfzRu1
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) January 21, 2022
“I am coaching really hard,” Hardaway continued on to say. “My boys are playing really hard. I’m not embarrassed about nothing. We have four freshmen starting. Y’all need to act like it. Act like we got 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds out here trying to learn how to play against 22-, 23-, and 24-year-old guys. Come on, man? Stop disrespecting me, bro. Like, don’t do that. I work too f***ing hard, I work way too hard for that. Yall write all these (unidentified expletive) articles about me and all I do is work. We’ve got young kids on the floor. They got young kids on the floor.”
The entire answer is worth each and every one of the 49 individual seconds that it takes to watch. When the writing is on the wall for a coach in the midst of a disastrous season, you often see those problems start to overflow into press conferences and interview sessions.
After a 9-8 start to the season and the seventh spot in the American Athletic Conference standings, that is exactly what is happening to Hardaway.
Memphis has now lost three straight games after losing four games in a row back in November and December.
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However, the issue in Memphis is that the product is falling astronomically low from the expectations that were set. Look at it this way – former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway Jr returns to Memphis and brings in the No. 1 recruiting classes in both 2019 and 2021. Yet, where did that get them?
With all that talent, expectations have been significantly higher than a bottom-half spot in the AAC rankings towards the end of January, which isn’t unfair to say.
Going back to Thursday’s rant though – The unfiltered verbal meltdown was comically riddled with excuse after excuse. And while yes, having a full roster is absolutely a critical indicator of a team’s success, this is January basketball when every team in the country is dealing with standard injuries on top of COVID protocols and guidelines.
Tennessee did not have Kennedy Chandler or John Fulkerson after the game against Alabama, but that wasn’t used by Tennessee as an excuse. The Vols lost veteran leader Josiah-Jordan James unexpectedly during the first four minutes against Vanderbilt, but that was used by Tennessee as an excuse either. Ultimately, the point that is being made here, is that January collegiate basketball rarely has full rosters.
From a distance, Memphis’ problems seem to revolve much more around the leadership of the team rather than the roster availabilities. And the rant from Memphis HC Penny Hardaway shows you why.