MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It started last March with a thunderous “Welcome Home” for favorite son, Penny Hardaway, as Head Coach of the Memphis Tigers Men’s Basketball Team.
His First year at the Helm ends with a trip to the second Round of the NIT, which was the first post season the U of M has had in 4 years.
But don’t expect Hardaway to be satisfied with year one.
Penny Hardaway wasn’t in a mood to coddle his young players after the Tigers loss to Creighton in the second round of the NIT on Friday night.
Penny got to the podium at his post-game press conference and immediately challenged his young players when asked if they’re ready to lead next season.
“I’m not sure. I’m not sure,” said Penny. “I really can’t even answer that. I’m not sure. They’ll have to say that. From being behind the seniors and the five seniors starting, they’ve been coached well, they’ve been taught a lot, are they ready for the leadership role? I don’t know.”
Sitting next to Penny at the Tigers post-game press conference was freshman Alex Lomax who has been coached by Penny since middle school. ALo, along with fellow freshman Antwan Jones, say they’re ready to accept the leadership challenge from their head coach.
“I feel like I can do it. I just have to lock in and stay consistent with it. I feel like I can do it, but we’re gonna have to see this summer,” said Lomax.
“We know exactly what we need to do to take the next step. The NIT we’re glad to be in it, but we want to go to the NCAA Tournament," adds Jones.
However, even with a top 10 recruiting class on the way to help the Tigers, Penny says nothing is guaranteed.
“It isn’t automatic. Everybody has to buy into the culture,” said Hardaway. "You have to have the leaders. The rest of the team saying, “hey, this is how we do it, and we’re not taking anything else. We’re not accepting anything less. There’s where it needs to graduate to.”
The challenge has been given. Penny's freshman seem to have accepted it, and now we wait for the next Memphis Tiger basketball season.