I can’t help but to feel that many in the national media are reveling in the fact that Memphis has had such a disheartening season. This tailspin coming despite a terrific start and delusions of grandeur that lingered from the summer. Those like Jeff Goodman, Dan Dakich and more have long been voicing their displeasure with the way that the University of Memphis fired former coach Tubby Smith after just two sad seasons. That sort of treatment of coaches with multi-million dollar buyouts goes against the unwritten code apparently.
At the time of Penny Hardaway’s hiring, I could not have been more jubilant. I mean, can you top that appointment as both a feel good story and probable pathway to success? Though this season has been rough, with the James Wiseman debacle and now the injury to DJ Jeffries, I am reminded of a promise I made myself nearly two years ago. The promise is that no matter what happens during Hardaway’s coaching tenure, I will not get wrapped up and let that taint my opinion of him prior to his coaching at Memphis.
And how could you? He brought excitement back to the Forum. Memphis fans are mad that the Tigers have lost three straight and are at .500 in a conference with no true bell cow. If you just look objectively at that painted picture it will leave you with true feelings of disappointment and frustration.
However, I want to ask you to take a moment to contemplate something. Is it better that Memphis fans have high expectations and are thirsty for wins — or the alternative of a passive fan base who chooses to do anything else on a Saturday morning instead of travel downtown to support what they claim to be “their team”?
On Monday, Yahoo Sports published an article outlining all of the Tigers’ season woes and puts a nail in Memphis’ pursuit of returning to the big dance. The article also attempts to put a nail in Hardaway’s reputation as a coach. Is college coaching more of a challenge than Hardaway thought it might be?
What I do know is that this season many things have gone of course from original road map. Coach Hardaway continually points to the youth on the team as the largest contributing factor to their lack of success and even downright failure on occasion. This team continually struggles to score late in the clutch and there has not been consistent leadership on the floor to help guide what appears to be a paddle-boat of an offense down the stretch.
This may not be Memphis’ year, with the off-court issues and injuries, but as a Tigers fan I have no choice but to hold out hope for a miracle. Many of us anticipated that Penny returning to his alma mater to coach would automatically bring the success that at one point we could see on the horizon. Now we know that vision on the horizon was closer to a rocky coast and not the paradise that we sought.
It’s not time to throw in the towel. One thing we can’t do is give up on Penny and what he is attempting to build at Memphis.
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