words // Nick DePaula:
For NBA legend Penny Hardaway, Memphis will always be home.
Since leaving the league in the late 2000s, Hardaway returned to Memphis for good, slowly working his way through the coaching ranks of his hometown. He started out as simply a volunteer assistant at his old middle school, helping out the Lester Lions and the 8th grade boys team alongside his childhood friend, Head Coach Desmond Merriweather.
“When you have an example who’s lived in the same neighborhood, lived in the same apartments, walked the same hallways – that is motivating, and it drives them,” said Hardaway. “Attitudes change.”
It didn’t take long for him to take to coaching, bridging together his experience at the highest level as a 1st Team All-NBA player and his ability to connect and relate to players of the next generation. Bringing his career full circle, this past week, Hardaway was named Head Coach at the University of Memphis.
Appearing on 929 ESPN Memphis earlier today, he discussed his roadmap of success for the program he once starred at twenty-five years ago. Naturally, the longtime Nike athlete with ten signature shoes to his name will also present a unique dynamic for the school, as his sneaker series still remains relevant today.
“I’m excited for the school,” said Hardaway. “It’s big time for Nike to come in right away and want to do some things for the school.”
Penny specified that he’ll be traveling to San Antonio this weekend for the NCAA’s Final Four, where he’ll be meeting with Nike reps to discuss plans for the Memphis team’s gear going forward. Could that mean “1 Cent” uniforms or special edition sneakers for the basketball team in the near future? Penny hopes so.
“We’re going to try have my logo be a part of this program and put my imprint on the program as far as putting my logo on the jerseys,” he continued. “I paid some dues to be able to get to this level — why not take advantage of it?”
You can listen to Penny’s full appearance on 929 ESPN Memphis below, along with my own interview just after, discussing his impact in the sneaker industry and the possibility of seeing his “1 Cent” logo on Tigers uniforms.
Penny Hardaway Interview:
Nick DePaula on Penny Hardaway: