I am not affiliated with U of M Athletics. The program has not reached out to me regarding my opinion.
But they should.
Because I feel supremely confident that I’d restore Tiger Basketball back to its rightful and proper place as a Top 25 program. Is this piece just the CHIEF pontificating from his website a bit? Maybe.
However, kind Memphis fans, please lend me your ear for a moment and I’ll take you on a journey back to the blue blood echelon of college basketball. Where fans across the nation know the name “Memphis,” know that the FedExForum is as tough an arena to play in, that players reach their lifetime NBA dreams from the springboard of Memphis, and, most importantly, know that — come March — we’ll be a damn tough out. In other words:
Enough pontificating. I know The BarnBurner faithful are people of action! Accordingly, below are my tangible steps to Make Tiger Basketball Great Again.
Okay, okay, you knew it was coming. From the guy who re-popularized the #FireTubbySmith hashtag (because it’s been quite popular before from other schools), it’s not a surprise that I advocate doing just that — firing Tubby Smith. This is step numero uno. Without it, the dominoes of excellence described below cannot truly come to pass.
I’ve heard the tired adages and #CoachSpeak again and again. “It just takes time.” “Tubby’s just got to get his guys in here.” “We can’t know anything until Year 3.” In no world should it take THIS MUCH TIME. Especially since the “rebuild” we’re dealing with here is entirely self-imposed after the coaching staff ran off the talent left on the team by Coach Pastner. Again, it’s not about wins and losses — it’s about the future trajectory of the program.
Especially bizarre to me are the expressions that don’t make actual sense that are repeated over and over by the AAC’s color commentators (many of whom are ex-coaches themselves) who have no idea what they’re talking about, and certainly don’t want to criticize “colleagues” in their field. What’s their incentive to be assholes about Tubby’s non-performance? I’ll just leave this here:
Instead, the questions we should be justifiably asking are:
- Okay, Tubby needs time. How much time is “time?”
- Should we be worried that he doesn’t have any [good to decent] players committed?
- What about the impending rebuild when Jeremiah Martin transfers or graduates, Jimario Rivers leaves, all the Juco guys graduate, and we’re left with a few 3-star juniors?
- If Tubby “coaches them up,” why have the Tigers lost to ECU and UCF twice late this season?
I’m still listening, and would be thrilled to receive actual answers to these questions. The fans have spoken — only about 2,000 butts are in the seats per game. But, for this article’s sake, I’m tired of beating a dead horse. Let’s move on to…
But CHIEF, What Excellent Coach Do We Hire to Replace Tubby?
Terrific question. I’m glad you asked. And my first selection, likewise, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was a Consensus first-team All-American in 1993 at the artist-formerly-known-as Memphis State University after he averaged 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. He was a two-time conference player of the year and was also was a finalist for both the Naismith and the John R. Wooden awards, awarded to the nation’s best player.
Put simply, Penny is perhaps the most famous Memphis Tiger in program history. Observe:
Can you imagine the jolt of energy that would ricochet through the program with this hire? It would be unprecedented.
Penny also happens to be one of the best high school/AAU basketball coaches in the country. At East High School, Penny is in the middle of another dominating season in the Bluff City, running the school’s record to 22-3 as of this writing and a No. 20 national ranking per USA Today.
Let’s not forget Penny’s AAU connections, as his Nike-sponsored Team Penny boasts three to four consensus Top-100 players nearly annually. This year — in particular — number one overall five-star phenom, James Wiseman (and R.J. Barrett and D.J. Jeffries and Chandler Lawson and… okay, you get the idea). Penny is the veritable John Calipari of high school basketball.
Finally — and here’s the thing that isn’t being talked about — if Memphis hires Penny, we also get Lil Penny — a born motivator and marketing expert for the program. That’s two for the price of one by my math.
Okay, I Like It, But What If It Doesn’t Work Out And We Run Penny Off…
As infamous 90s avant garde rock band, the Butthole Surfers, once opined: “It’s better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do.” Now I’ve lived my life according to this mantra — the mantra of a band whose name includes the word “butthole” — but never mind that. I still think it’s phenomenal advice to this day.
Have you heard of the “straw man” argument tactic? Borne from the basis of logical fallacy, a straw man is where Person B raises a point that seemingly refutes the argument of Person A on the surface, but really Person B’s point is a gross misstatement of Person A’s main argument all along. Here’s an example:
Caroline says that she thinks her friends should not be so rude to the new girl. Jenna says that she cannot believe that Caroline is choosing to be better friends with the new girl than the girls who have always known her.
Starting to get it? Here’s another:
Tiger Fan says that she thinks Memphis should hire Penny Hardaway as Head Men’s Basketball Coach because he would be an incredible recruiter, Memphis ambassador, and seems to be a relatively good X/Os coach based on his high school coaching success. Other Fan says he cannot get behind the hiring because what if Penny sucks and we have to fire him and run him out of town?
Notice a similarity? Other Fan does not agree with or refute Tiger Fan’s points. Instead, Other Fan brings up the worst case scenario as if it’s the likely outcome. Classic straw man. If someone does this to you:
- Point at them;
- Yell “STRAW MAN!”
- Run away as fast as you can;
- Because they’re an untrustworthy snake.
Other Options If Not Penny:
I have a harebrained theory — bear with me. Okay, here it is: it’s not actually hard to hire a good to great men’s basketball coach at a Top 25 program (willing to pay top 10 money). As a result, here are other eligible options, all of whom I think would take the Memphis job:
Buzz Williams, VA Tech — Yeah, yeah, Buzz is in the beloved Power 5. It may be a long shot, but I’d throw everything at him — the kitchen sink, a pet tiger, and even Bill Laurie’s golden-plated golf clubs. Buzz’s fiery demeanor and marketable attitude would be a perfect fit for Memphis, and he may already be tired busting his ass to miraculously get to .500 in the loaded ACC. I’m looking to him first, dangling some serious coin in front of him, and making him tell me no to my face.
Steve Forbes, ETSU — Forbes has a storied career. In the big leagues, he fine-tined his tutelage under Bruce Pearl, serving as Pearl’s number one guy during Pearl’s incredibly successful tenure with Tennessee. Sadly, when you hitch your wagon to a horse that hosts illegal in-home BBQs for recruits, your career is likely to be BBQ chicken as well. Forbes was hit with a tough show-cause by the NCAA and drifted off into obscurity. He then studied under Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, where he was co-responsible for the two greatest years in Shockers history (and also the time I became aware of Wichita State being an academic institution). When he finally took the head chair, he went 62-6 at Northwest Florida State (JuCo) and is currently 72-24 at East Tennessee State. This dude can fuckin’ coach, man.
Dan Hurley, Rhode Island — Hurley, 44, enters his sixth season at URI and has the Rams sitting at 20-3 and 12-0 in the Atlantic 10. He took URI to the tournament last year and actually WON A DAMN GAME. Hurley’s name carries some of that blue-blood weight as well, as he’s the younger brother of Duke star, Bobby Hurley.
Damon Stoudamire, Pacific — “Couch Stoud” as he’s more commonly known, began his big-time coaching career in Memphis on Josh Pastner’s staff. Known for his tireless recruiting, it was only a matter of time before some school gave Stoudamire a shot in the head chair. That school was the University of Pacific (in the WCC). Though he’s had a rough start building that program, Stoudamire has Pacific turned in the right direction and seems to have a very promising career — did I mention this dude can “recruit” with a capital “R”?
What About Assistants?
Damn, y’all are insightful. That’s exactly what I was going to discuss next. To be honest, I only have one mandate beyond the assistants the HC hire would want to bring over himself. The one, the only…
Antonio Anderson — Tone is a Tiger great, was just inducted into the M-Club Hall of Fame, and currently coaches at Lynn English High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he’s achieved great success. I want him on the sidelines. Significantly more importantly, I want him out on the recruiting trail. Who better than an ambassador forged directly from Memphis’ most recent glory years? If Tone walks into a young man’s living room, no way he’s leaving without a commitment. I know he’d be phenomenal in that regard. Further, this would be Tone’s first high major job AND his alma mater — he would work tirelessly. Any X/Os benefits would be merely a bonus.
Memphis: A Basketball Tradition.
After securing our new and exciting coaching staff, the Theme of the Season is: “MEMPHIS TRADITION.” Emphasis on “tradition.” As a fanbase, we’re traveling back to our roots (or, really, the roots planted by Coach John Calipari or Gene Bartow in the 70s).
First, I’d replace the current court graphics with the court from the recent golden era of Tiger Basketball. No more will our eyes be assaulted with geometric structures and black lines crisscrossing everywhere — where does the skyline start and the bridge end? Hell if I know.
Was that a foul or was my vision merely blurred by the gratuitous and confusing optical illusions like those Magic Eye books from the 90s? We need to bury all references to these foregone eras of mediocrity. It starts with this court.
Rather, we go back to the basics. The mere sight of this court again will flash fans back to those 30-win teams and generate excitement before the ball is even tipped:
Yeah ignore the NBA player for now — those will come, but just peep this court. Ah, does it not make you ‘member? So simple. So elegant. Why is Stranger Things so damn popular? Because of nostalgia (and, as South Park would say, #MemberBerries). Well, folks, we’re going to shamelessly capitalize on the same tactic here.
At halftime of each home game in our inaugural “tradition” season, we will honor a Tiger Basketball great. Bring them out to center court and just fire up the fans with memories of years past. Players like Darius Washington, Dujuan Wagner, Shawne Williams, Willy Kemp, Elliot Perry, Shawn Taggart — the list goes on and on. Plus, the reignited tie to the program might generate more interest from our alumni to get plugged back in. Simply put, the more pro basketball players we have in our corner, the better the program’s outlook going forward.
Y’all know the boosters — names such as Nancy and Bill Laurie that grace the signs in front of campus structures? The program wouldn’t be where it is but for these folks and their generous monetary contributions. So, at each home game, high-donor boosters are honored at halftime as “Legacy Fans” for their dedication and contributions to the continued success of Tiger Basketball. People love being honored, and the possibility of them reaching further into their pockets to maintain said success is amplified.
Somewhere, deep inside, this is a storied program just raring to be on the national stage again. It’s up to us to open it back up and MAKE TIGER BASKETBALL GREAT AGAIN. #GoTigersGo #FireTubbySmith
[banner image from Xclusive Memphis]