Former Memphis All-American Penny Hardaway is heading back to his alma mater -as its men’s basketball coach.
Memphis will announce Hardaway as its next coach on Tuesday, said a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press Monday on condition of anonymity because Memphis hasn’t publicly announced the hire. Memphis has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday.
The 46-year-old Hardaway replaces Tubby Smith, who was fired after going 40-26 in two seasons with Memphis.
Hardaway is a four-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA player who will be making his college coaching debut with the Tigers. He has been coaching for years with his own AAU program, Team Penny, and won his third straight Tennessee high school championship at Memphis East last weekend.
The Memphis native played at Treadwell High School before going to then-Memphis State remains very popular in his hometown. And his alma mater desperately needs someone to keep Memphis’ top recruits at home and lure fans back to the FedExForum, where the Tigers play their home games.
Memphis hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, and attendance dipped to 6,225 this season – the worst since 1969-70. The plunging attendance puts the university at risk of missing out on an $800,000 payment from the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, who control the FedExForum. The Commercial Appeal also reported donations to the athletic department dropped $1.1 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Hardaway starred for Memphis teams that posted a combined 43-23 record and made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 1992 and 1993. The Tigers reached a regional final in 1992.
With Hardaway, the Tigers notched eight wins over ranked teams. He posted the first triple-doubles in school history.
Hardaway declared for the 1993 NBA Draft and was the No. 3 overall pick by Golden State before being traded to Orlando.
Memphis retired his jersey on Jan. 23, 1994.
Hardaway finished his career with 10,864 points and 704 games played. He graduated from Memphis in May 2003 at the age of 31 while playing for Phoenix. He also has donated to his alma mater, with the Hardaway Athletic Hall of Fame named in his honor.
After retiring from the NBA, Hardaway went into coaching. His biggest move came with his own AAU program, and he became coach at Memphis East High School, which won a third straight Tennessee Class AAA title last weekend. Forward James Wiseman, the No. 2 prospect in 2019 nationally, plays for Hardaway on both teams.
Guard Alex Lomax also played for Hardaway at East High and currently is committed to Wichita State.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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