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The turning point for the Memphis basketball season was a Penny Hardaway emotional press conference. Tigers now set for a March to remember.
“Stop asking me stupid fu**ing questions…”
The words of Penny Hardaway said on January 20th in a post-game press conference. The 47-second f-bomb laced rant instantly went viral and sent social media into a frenzy.
His words, directed at the Memphis media, were candid, emotional and full of frustration. The Tigers were coming off their third straight loss and had only won four games since Thanksgiving.
It appeared they were destined for another disappointing NIT-bid at the end of the season.
Coach Hardaway was frustrated. Frustrated with himself. Frustrated with his team.
And frustrated with how the media implied he wasn’t the “right” guy to get the job done at Memphis.
The question that ignited the tirade was a reporter who asked if he’d ever lost faith in his ability to lead his alma mater.
“I think the one thing I can say to this media because this media gets kind of fu**ed up sometimes when it comes to me, we don’t have our full roster,” Hardaway replied. “Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. So, stop asking me stupid fu**ing questions about if I feel like I can do something.”
Quite frankly, the media has the right to question Hardaway. He hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype surrounding his hire in 2018.
Despite bringing in the nation’s #1 recruiting class two of the last three years, Memphis has not reached the NCAA Tournament during Hardaway’s tenure.
It’s not personal; it’s basketball. Hardaway is a public figure paid millions of dollars to coach. Anything on basketball is fair game.
Hardaway knows this.
He spent 15-seasons in the NBA. Three of those years were in New York. I’ll bet he’s dealt with more media pressure as a player than anything local beat writers in Memphis can put on him as a coach.
No shade to the Memphis media. They do an incredible job. However, I don’t believe this rant was really about them.
If you listen to the entire clip, it appears Coach Hardaway is speaking (indirectly) to someone else.
His own team! You can’t convince me that this rant wasn’t as strategic as it was emotional.
“If I had my roster like [the opposing team] did, then I feel like I can do whatever I want to do,” Hardaway continued. “I’m coaching really hard. 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’ve got 17- and 18- and 19-year-olds out here trying to learn how to play against 22-, 23- and 24-year-old guys.”
If I’m a young player hearing that statement, it will motivate me to step my game up. I don’t want my coach using me or my youth as an excuse for our team playing poorly.
Embedded in this rant, hands down, was a challenge to the players.
And the players responded.
Since this soundbite, Hardaway and his team have been on fire.
The Tigers have won 11 of their last 12 games and finished the season ranked third in the conference. During this hot streak, they upset the first-place Houston Cougars twice.
Memphis is firmly positioned to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
The road to March Madness continues Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT when Memphis will take on the SMU Mustangs in the semifinals of the AAC Tournament.
Buckle up, Tiger fans. This team is primed and ready to go on a memorable run in March