Orlando, Memphis and a Penny for your thoughts

I heard a recent radio interview with Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway on the Sirius/XM NBA channel.  For those of you in your twenties unfamiliar with the name, there was once a time where a kid nick-named Penny, because his grandmother named his such, was the NBA’s next big thing.  He, along with this guy they called Shaq, were going to be the future of basketball.

In only his second year in the league, Penny’s Magic beat a Michael Jordan-led Bulls team to make it all the way to the NBA Finals.  Four missed Nick Anderson free throws and four straight losses to the Houston Rockets later, the team fell apart.

In another year, Shaq would be westward bound.  Penny would have a few more successful seasons in Orlando but nagging injury kept him from fulfilling his potential.  Within only a few seasons, the Orlando would have nothing to show for their back-to-back, top draft picks.  Penny would play thirteen more seasons in Phoenix, New York and a rather forgettable stint in Miami but nothing would live up to the hype of the season he and his Magic beat Michael.

Years later, with an all new cast of characters, Orlando would reach the Finals once again only to have that team dismantled in eerily similar fashion.

It’s been a frustrating ride for Magic fans which is why when I heard the radio host ask Penny Hardaway if he had any interest in returning to the organization in some sort of basketball capacity, and Penny answered that he’d be delighted, this Magic fan’s ears perked up.

What a perfect fit, I thought.  Although he’s long since played, Hardaway is still incredibly active in basketball, working with both high schools and the Amateur Athletic Union.  While high school kids and the AAU are a far cry from the NBA, one could make the argument that the rosters Orlando has put forth the last several years have been pretty amateurish.

It’s about time that change.  Penny would be a positive change in that direction.

The Magic may miss out on their man, however.  News leaked out this week that Penny’s alma mater, the University of Memphis is considering getting rid of their current coach, Tubby Smith. Penny has been rumored to take his place.

That may or may not be a good hire.  Although he has no head coaching experience at the college level, Penny is golden in Memphis.  He helped put that school on the map, is part owner of the Memphis Grizzlies and has been a positive role model in the community.

While a gamble, a struggling Memphis program doesn’t have all that much to lose.  Why not a fresh face in an industry characterized by hiring the same old retreads?  And here the mismanaged Magic continue to sputter, about to drop the ball on yet another transaction.

The Magic haven’t made the playoffs in six years and haven’t won a playoff series in nine.  This team has been woefully irrelevant and painful to watch.  They traded Victor Oladipo who they drafted second overall in 2013 and got nothing in return.  Oladipo is currently averaging 24 points a game in Indiana.

This season, they traded their starting point guard and fan favorite Elfrid Payton for a second-round draft pick.  Payton had been averaging career highs in points per game and shooting percentage.  What better reason to move him, right?

Years ago, the Magic hired Rob Hennigan as their general manager.  Cut from the Spurs cloth, he was supposed to make contenders out of the Orlando Magic.  Their record under his watch was 132-278.  So much for scouting talent.  Hennigan has been replaced by former Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond.  The Magic currently have one of the worst records in the league.

I blame not solely the general managers of these teams although their decision-making has been skeptical at best.  It has to be hard to field a winning team when ownership has no interest in doing so.

Which brings us back to Penny.

I propose the reason the Magic don’t go the Penny route is twofold.  Either they don’t know any better or they are wholeheartedly disinterested in winning.

What’s the worse that could happen?  They give Penny a shot and STILL don’t make the playoffs?

In any capacity, Anfernee Hardaway would breathe new life into an organization that so desperately needs it.  He would give old school Magic fans and perhaps even new players a reason to believe again just as he did in ’94.

I hate to use the word “cursed” but when’s the last time you heard a professional basketball player say he wanted to play in Orlando.  It’s the vacation capital of the world, they play in a brand, new arena and residents pay NO STATE INCOME TAX!   One would think those would be big selling points.

The Magic aren’t going to hire Penny Hardaway.  He’ll likely get his shot in the coaching ranks and more power to him for doing so.  He may succeed.  He may fail.  But the Magic continue to fail for putting forth a sub-par product on the court.

They desperately need a change in culture.  All it would cost them is a Penny.

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19 Replies to “Orlando, Memphis and a Penny for your thoughts”

  1. I think Tubby Smith deserves more than what he’s been getting lately. Texas Tech earned a #3 seed in the East regional on the strength of a senior class that Tubby recruited.

    BTW, looks like Tech and Florida are headed toward a second round match-up(provided both teams make it through the first round).

    Wreck ’em Tech!!!!

  2. I think most college basketball fans will agree with you on Tubby, Beag, but it wouldn’t be the first time a qualified college coach got the short end of the stick.

    I think Memphis wants Penny because he brings Larry Brown with him to sweeten the deal. How funny would it be seeing Brown at the end of the bench with Penny calling the shots?

    From a Magic fan’s perspective, I just wanted to see someone with Penny’s personality and clout breathe some life into a dead and going nowhere organization.

  3. Explain to me what it is Rich DeVos (owner) and Alex Martens are now trying to do ? Because if anything, DeVos is proving to be as much of a failure as his wife Betsy DeVos, the current US Education Secretary. This Orlando Magic team wasn’t built to be competitive , merely to be another NBA franchise that Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA hierarchy can use to make money. It’s systematic of the absolute putrid mediocrity of professional sports within the state of Florida as a whole.

    Tophatal …………….

  4. I remember those Magic squads with 3D, B-Shaw and Horace Grant. Good teams, but first Hakeem came in like a wrecking ball, then Jerry West swooped in and that was that.

    Penny was special, no doubt. Too bad about the knees. I saw a 30 for 30 or some show about Penny taking over coaching duties for his close friend who was terminally ill. Nice story. He seems like a good dude.

    I suppose giving him a shot in Orlando might be worth a few months of positive press and feel goodness. Who knows, it may work…But as you point out, Orlando seems to be a bit Clipperesque in regards to screwing up a good thing.

    Either way, Orlando could use a little positivity, short lived or not.

  5. I fear there’s some truth to your statement, Al.

    Why is the league not pushing DeVos to put forth a more competitive team?

    And what sense does trading away first round picks make when you’re getting nothing in return?

  6. And that’s the whole point, Bleed.

    What can it hurt?

    No one’s expecting this guy to roam around the halls and all of the sudden make this franchise a winner again.

    But damn, how about any semblance of positivity at all?

    Why would any pro want to play for a team who’s priority isn’t winning?

  7. Why would any pro want to play for a team who’s priority isn’t winning?

    Hmmm….Melo could probably answer that question for you.

  8. Chris
    The Orlando Magic is basically a mess..Orlando’s front office lacks creativity drive and initiative. They’re beginning to make the Rays’ organization seen like astute connoisseurs.

  9. Hiring Penny Hardaway as long as Rich DeVos is the owner is like one of those episodes of Hoarders where somebody has spent years shitting in garbage bags and think a few spritzes of Febreze solves the problem.

  10. I hope Penny opts for a college gig. Personally I’ve always thought that a university job is a very cool profession. There is something about the atmosphere that can be very rewarding for the right person.

  11. And down goes Tubby, Deac, just as we thought.

    If they do hire Penny (and Larry), it’ll be interesting to see that dynamic on the sidelines to say the least.

  12. The interest in Penny at Memphis is two-fold – his hiring will put more people in the seats right away…and he has an “in” with three top prospects coming out of high school. Both of these, of course, are short-term feels with long-term complications if, a) Penny doesn’t deliver a winner right away and/or, b) said prospects are one-and-dones. Hearing he’s their man doesn’t surprise me at all. However, I was actually living in Memphis for a short while at the time the university ran another U of M legend, Larry Finch, straight out of town after winning a whole bunch of games for them. That’s eventually what will happen with Penny, but in the interim we’ll see if he can really coach ’em up and sign’em up as needed to compete on the national stage in the next couple of seasons. The Magic? I guess the less said the better. I remember their good albeit old, old days.

  13. I’d like to see him succeed, Burnsy, just ’cause of who he is. I’ve always been a fan.

    I just wonder if he’s gonna be able to play the coach’s game.

    Look at all these coaches being hired/fired/re-hired.

    Over/under on how long it takes for Rick Pitino to land another job? Care to put up a number?

  14. Chris, I suspect Pitino will have a job when the 2019-2020 season tips off. Not next year, but the year after. Someone will take a chance on him, don’t ‘cha think?

  15. Oh…just saw a ten minute interview with Penny on CBS Sports. Was impressed by his thoughtful answers and his humble approach to the job. Saw he’s already got his son coming there. Wichita State released another player from his LOI to most likely go to Memphis (Penny coached him previously). This could get very interesting. I don’t think he or the program need Larry Brown as an assistant, however. “Things” happen around Larry…

  16. Burnsy….

    I think it’ll have to be a small school. Still too much heat surrounding Pitino… but you’re right, in a few years, who knows. We all know how important winning (at any cost) is to programs.

    I honestly think Penny was a great hire. While he might not bring a load (or any) high level coaching experience, he’ll bring an enthusiasm. And he sure as hell is gonna bring some talent.

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