Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers Are Adding Another Basketball Legend to Their Coaching Staff

Anfernee Hardaway accepted the head coaching job at the University of Memphis in 2018. After coaching at the high-school level, Penny headed back to his alma mater to try and bring the Tigers back to the highest levels of NCAA basketball, which the program hadn’t seen since John Calipari left for Kentucky. Things haven’t worked out the way he hoped, at least not yet, but Hardaway and the Tigers are now adding another basketball legend to their coaching staff.

Penny is adding North Carolina alum Rasheed Wallace to his bench at Memphis. Sheed had a storied career with UNC and parlayed it into a professional career that included an NBA championship. Now, he’s joining Hardaway with the intention of bringing the Tigers back to the final four for the first time since 2008.

Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers are adding Rasheed Wallace to their coaching staff

Retired NBA player Rasheed Wallace, who is now a member of Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers’ coaching staff, attends a press conference.
Retired NBA player Rasheed Wallace, who is now a member of Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers’ coaching staff, attends the launching ceremony of OYTP (Outstanding Youth Training Program) basketball camp. | Visual China Group via Getty Images

Wallace retired from the NBA after a 16-season playing career. He has career averages of 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. He was a solid three-point shooter (33.6% for his career) and became one of the best role players in the league once he landed with the Detroit Pistons in 2003-04. Wallace was a four-time NBA all-star and won the 2004 title with Detroit.

With the Tar Heels, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for two seasons before being taken by Portland with the fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft.

Since he retired, Wallace has made two stops as a high-school head coach.

Wallace becomes Hardaway’s second major hire of the offseason as he attempts to return Memphis to the NCAA Tournament

The Tigers won last year’s NIT Championship, and Hardaway has been successful on the recruiting trail so far (Memphis landed now-Golden State Warriors’ center James Wiseman two years ago), but he has yet to bring Memphis to the NCAA Tournament. So Penny also welcomed hall of fame coach Larry Brown to his staff. Brown made the NBA finals three times during his professional coaching career and was Wallace’s coach in Detroit when the Pistons won the 2004 title. He brought his team back to the finals the next season and coached Allen Iverson and the 76ers to their finals appearance in 2000-01.

But Brown’s coaching career actually started in college. He was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year in 1987-88 when he won an NCAA championship with Kansas. He brought three different teams from two different schools to the final four and was most recently the head coach at SMU from 2012-16.

In one summer, Hardaway added a former NBA all-star and collegiate standout in Wallace, and a coaching legend with both an NBA title and NCAA title in Brown, to his program.

Hardaway and Wallace are basketball legends who add legitimacy to Memphis in the eyes of recruits

As the nation’s top high school players are beginning to find different paths to the NBA, recruiting becomes a bigger priority throughout college basketball. Imagine Hardaway and Wallace sitting in front of a high schooler on his living room couch. That would be impressive, especially when Brown’s experience as a champion at two different levels is added into the mix. Or Penny can always call on his time as an actor with Shaquille O’Neal in the movie Blue Chips as a last resort.

Top 2023 recruit Jalen Lewis was a possibility for Memphis, but he recently switched gears and decided to sign with the new Overtime Elite league rather than play in the NCAA. The Tigers just signed a top-five prospect in the 2022 class in Emoni Bates, according to The Athletic, but more and more high schoolers are leaning toward going the professional route rather than playing in the NCAA.

The trio of Hardaway, Brown, and Wallace should help Memphis get more national attention and recognition. That should lead to more credibility for the program, which hopefully translates to tournament appearances and wins for the former Orlando Magic star.

All NBA statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference and collegiate statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.

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