MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Penny Hardaway era at the University of Memphis began on March 20th, but the start of fall practice on Tuesday signified the official start to Penny’s reign at the U of M.
The former All-American and NBA All-Star met with media members prior to the start of the first practice to talk about the season ahead and his expectations for fall camp.
On getting on the court now and actually coaching.
“Well it’s gonna be great. It was four hours per week up until now, that was really tough to do, but now it’s 20 hours a week. That makes me feel great, and today being the first day, I’m really anxious, I’m sure the boys are anxious and we’re ready to get out there and get to work.”
What the first practice will look like. Will it be all defense?
“It will not be an all defense practice, but there will be a lot of defense included for sure. I am old school. A lot of conditioning. A lot of running. A lot of defense, but not an all defense practice. That might be coming though.”
When the agenda for the first practice was planned.
“I’ve kind of been planning it for about a month. Kind of figuring the guys out. Trying to see what our strengths and weaknesses were over the last couple of months, and then I started piecing together what I really wanted to do. Every traditional first day is about conditioning, understanding, running and toughness All of the above.”
How does Penny answer people who are skeptical of his coaching ability?
How Penny’s going to use his assistants.
“I think I’m going to rely on them. I don’t know how much yet. Definitely going to take their advice because of their experience in the game. I’m not the type of coach that feel like I know everything, and ‘don’t say anything to me.’ I take the advice and it’s up to me to make the final call in the last minute."
On if he’s using any coaching strategies from his past experience as a high school coach.
“I think I’m still using the things that have been successful for me until otherwise. I’m going to be studying a lot more tape. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of other teams along with our team as well. I think my biggest strength is in game adjustments. We’ll have our team prepared, but every game plan isn’t going to go as planned you might have to adjust, and that’s where I think my strength comes into play.”
Health of Jeremiah Martin.
"I think Jeremiah is at 85-90 percent. He’s been on the court doing some things. Just conditioning. No pain, which is great for us. We’re taking everybody in healthy this first practice, and that makes me feel really good.
Is the first day of practice the first sign that the regular season is here?
“No, I actually started that when school started, but to have the first day is defnitely telling us, ‘hey it’s right around the corner.’ Before you know it the (Memphis) Madness will be here, and the first game against LeMoyne (Owen) will be here. We don’t have time to play around. We have lofty expectations, and we want to go out there and grind and see where it goes, but we’re happy that today is here. To get our hours to really get some good work in.”
What Penny wants to see in first few practices.
“Just hard work. We don’t want to go in there, and just go through the motions. We want the guys to give us full attention. The culture we’re trying to build around here is multiple efforts, toughness, playing hard the entire possession you’re on the floor and no plays off. That’s what we want to see for an entire practice.”
How Penny’s team will differ from Tubby Smith’s a year ago.
“I think I’m a little more uptempo than coach. We really want to run fast break. Not too much half-court. We want to get it out. We want to run. Defensively we might press more. We’re going to be a high energy team on defense as well. I like to get the speed teams up. I don’t like them to get in their rhythm. Try to keep team off balance.”
Which current player reminds Penny of himself.
“That’s tough. A 6′7” point guard. If I could say anybody it could be Antwann Jones. He has a lot of potential. Big guard, 6′5″, can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Not as athletic as I was, but he could be a 6′5″ point guard."
Realistic expectations for this season.
“I think it’s realistic for us to not finish eighth. I really do. I think that’s one thing that I can say. I can’t speak on anything else, but eighth, I think they were thinking that the freshman we have couldn’t carry us, and they’re really not respecting the staff or the guys that are coming back from last year. They finished fifth last year, and they did a great job of finishing fifth with the injury to Jeremiah and finishing strong. I think it’s safe to say we can finish better than eighth.”
What Penny can take away from his college coach Larry Finch.
“Coach Finch was just a players coach. He communicated well with us, and that’s so important in today’s time, because of the entitlement that the guys feel. They kind of have to feel that you love them. Back in the day the coaches were hardcore and they didn’t really care you just had to get the work done. Coach Finch helped me understand that you have to love your players, and let them know that you care about them, and they’ll go the extra mile for you.”
The X Factor Penny has his eye on in fall practice.
“I just want to see how much faster we can get up and down the floor. I want it to be a blur. It started out slow, it’s starting to speed up now, and by the time the season starts I want us to be a blur. I want when teams play us, that first time out, they’re gassed and we’re not. They’re not used to playing that way, but that’s what we want to get to.”
On the newcomers.
“A few of these freshmen and newcomers are showing me more than even I saw in them when I watched them play. That’s letting me know that they’re getting better every week.”
Who’s the team leader?
“Right now it’s Jeremiah Martin. Kareem Brewton is right there. He’s taking the responsibility of being the big brother and a leader, and wants to take care of the young guys.”
On team chemistry right now
“As good as it can get right now. The older guys are taking the younger guys under their wings. 'Hey this is how we want to be. It’s us versus the rest of the country. It’s not us against each other. I think the veterans did a great job of doing that.”
Are you still just as excited?
“I’m very happy. I’m ready to get into the arena though. The preparation, I love that, that’s been a part of my career. I prepare really well so practices are always great, but to get into the arena. I want to feel the jitters when I get into FedExForum, if I feel any, I hope I do, but I’m anxious to get there.”
Will the Tigers get another commitment before the early signing period?
“I am confident we are going to get another commitment before the early signing period.”