Memphis is turning to Penny Hardaway — the former NBA All-Star and Tigers legend who does not have any Division I experience as a head coach or assistant — to replace fired coach Tubby Smith. The school is expected to announce Hardaway as its next head coach on Tuesday, sources told ESPN.
Hardaway is a prominent youth coach in Memphis with connections to the area's top players. He has been the head coach of the Team Penny grass-roots program and East High School in Memphis.
Both James Wiseman and Chandler Lawson — the Nos. 1 and 26 prospects in the 2019 class, respectively, per ESPN.com — attend East High School.
Memphis said it had terminated Smith without cause because of financial challenges within the program. Attendance had dropped nearly 10,000 per game in recent years, and donations had suffered, too. Smith, who won a national title in 1998 at Kentucky, struggled to build a regional talent pipeline.
But don't make any assumptions about Hardaway. The history of former NBA stars stepping in to save college programs is grim, and few have matched the hype attached to their arrivals. Even hometown heroes like Hardaway, a two-time Great Midwest Conference Player of the Year and four-time NBA All-Star, often struggle.
Here's a complete rundown.
Active college coaches who had notable careers
Patrick Ewing, Georgetown Hoyas | Record: 15-15
It's too early to judge Ewing, who finished .500 in his first season at his alma mater, which had dismissed John Thompson III last summer. The Hoyas finished 2-9 in their final 11 games of 2017-18. But Ewing has an intriguing class, led by four-star prospect Josh LeBlanc.
Chris Mullin, St. John's Red Storm | Record 38-60
In his second season at his alma mater, Mullin won 16 games, doubling his win total from Year 1. He can hang his hat on a couple of victories over Duke and Villanova. But the Red Storm are far from the glory days Mullin was hired to reproduce.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest Demon Deacons | Record 92-102 — combines current record at Wake Forest with his stint at Tulsa
He won 38 games at Tulsa. He's reached the NCAA tournament once in four years, however, at Wake Forest (2017). But his incoming class is led by five-star forward Jaylen Hoard (No. 20 prospect in the 2017 class, per ESPN.com).
Avery Johnson, Alabama Crimson Tide | Record: 56-45
Johnson reached the NCAA tournament in his third season thanks to Collin Sexton's epic performance in the SEC tournament. Once Sexton turns pro after the season, Alabama could tumble in the SEC standings and reach Selection Sunday in 2019 without a guaranteed berth.
Terry Porter, Portland Pilots | Record: 21-44
The University of Portland hired the former Trail Blazers star in 2016. His team won 10 games this season — one less than last year's final tally — and lost seven in a row to end the year for the WCC team.
Damon Stoudamire, Pacific Tigers | Record: 25-40
The former NBA All-Star worked as a coveted assistant at both Memphis and Arizona before he accepted Pacific's offer in 2016. He's had his challenges while also making clear strides. This season, Pacific beat BYU and jumped nearly 100 spots in KenPom's rankings.
Donyell Marshall, Central Connecticut Blue Devils | Record: 20-41
He won six games in his first season (2016-17). He won 14 games this year. This is still a team in the 300s on KenPom.com.
Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon Antelopes | Record: 103-57
Majerle is one of the great NBA-to-college-coaching success stories. He helped Grand Canyon make the lengthy transition to Division I sports. This year, a Grand Canyon team that had played elite defense all season lost to New Mexico State in the WAC tournament title game.
Mike Dunleavy Sr., Tulane Green Wave | Record: 20-42
Dunleavy's squad won 14 games this year after securing just six victories in his first season. Melvin Frazier, a 6-foot-6 forward at Tulane, is an NBA prospect.
Former college coaches who had notable NBA careers
Isiah Thomas, FIU Panthers | Record:? 26-65
You think the Knicks are the only team Isiah Thomas ruined? Nah. In three years at Florida International, Thomas won just 26 games in a disastrous stint.
Clyde Drexler, Houston Cougars | Record: 19-39
The Cougars thought they'd found their savior after Drexler retired from the NBA to lead his alma mater. He never won more than 10 games in two seasons.
Reggie Theus, Cal State Northridge Matadors | Record: 85-128 — combines record at CSUN with his stint at New Mexico State
Cal State Northridge fired Theus after this season's 6-24 finish. In five seasons with the program, Theus — who led New Mexico State to the NCAA tournament in 2007 — never earned an at-large or automatic berth.
Mark Price, Charlotte 49ers | Record: 30-42
Price was fired in December, only a handful of games into his third season at Charlotte.