Penny Hardaway coaching the University of Memphis

Calipari: Memphis Tenure

When John Calipari was the head coach at Memphis, he made a routine occurrence of bringing in top recruits and running big win tallies. Calipari never won the national championship at Memphis, coming a few shots short the year Derrick Rose was there, but ever since he has left there has been a loss of national reputation for the Memphis Basketball program. Memphis used to be a guaranteed watch on ESPN multiple times a year. Recently, they fell back to the middle of the pack and went from getting top recruits to come every year to being happy if they could land a few top 100 prospects every year. The few years after Calipari wasn’t a total disaster in that Memphis was able to make a couple of tournament runs, but with the administration being used to Calipari days the Josh Pastner era was doomed from the start. The program decided to let Josh Pastner go; then they made the best decision since hiring Calipari, which was hiring Penny Hardaway, a Memphis Alum.

The Penny Hardaway Era

The Penny Hardaway era didn’t start off with a run to the NCAA tournament but it did have a few major highlights. He unveiled an offense that is enticing to high school recruits and had a winning record. This was all done with Josh Pastner’s players and not his own. Then the big off season came and Penny pulled off a recruiting class that would have made Calipari jealous. Matter of fact, Penny got a former Kentucky commit to drop them to attend Memphis in D.J. Jeffries. Not only did he steal a recruit from Kentucky, he also got Boogie Ellis to decommit from Duke and join his team. Beating Duke or Kentucky in any year is a big recruiting win. Beating Duke and Kentucky in the same year is a program-changing recruiting win. Penny has now made Memphis a new hot bed for recruits. Add in the fact that he was a memorable NBA superstar and he has an offense built to allow top recruits to shine and now Duke and Kentucky have been put on notice. He managed to land the top recruit in the Nation in James Wiseman and fill his team with top prospects, which will likely lead his team to a sweet sixteen NCAA tournament berth at worst. The success he has this year will almost certainly payoff in the recruiting process this year. Top recruits will have the option to go to Memphis, be on national television with a favorable schedule, and be part of a fast paced offense geared for them to put up numbers. Watch out blue bloods: Memphis is back.


I am an avid football and basketball fan following the two sports for the last 25 years.

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