Memphis Hopes Penny Hardaway Can Help Attendance Woes
The Univ. of Memphis will hire former star Penny Hardaway as its new men's basketball coach "barring any last-minute complications," and the move comes amid dwindling attendance in recent years, according to sources cited by Mark Giannotto of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The school likely will hold a press conference announcing the former NBA All-Star as Tubby Smith's replacement "early next week." Smith was fired this week after two seasons, and UM will owe him "nearly $10 million since he had three years remaining on a five-year contract." He was let go "mostly due to factors beyond his win-loss record," as attendance "hit a 48-year-low this season." UM also could "miss out entirely on an $800,000 payment" from the Grizzlies as part of its lease with FedExForum. Donations to the UM athletic department "also decreased by $1.1 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year largely because of a drop in men's basketball season ticket sales." Hiring Hardaway "would help fix these issues, at least initially, because of his status as one of the city's basketball legends and his ability to jolt the Tigers' recruiting efforts" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/16).
CREAN OF THE CROP: The Univ. of Georgia signed Tom Crean to a "six-year deal that will pay him $3.2 million annually," making him the "second highest-paid coach in the SEC" behind only Kentucky's John Calipari. The UGA Athletic Board Exec Committee "approved the hire Thursday night in a hastily called meeting." Crean spent this season working for ESPN after being fired from Indiana in '17 after nine seasons (ATHENS BANNER-HERALD, 3/16).