The Memphis Tigers have been resurgent since Penny Hardaway took over as head coach, winning 20+ games in each of his first three seasons and winning the NIT last season. However, given that he’s attracted the No. 1 recruiting classes in the nation in 2019 and 2021, much more has been expected of the program.

The Tigers came into the 2021-2022 season with extremely high hopes, ranked No. 12 in the preseason AP Poll. Unfortunately, the reality is that the team is in the midst of a rough season, struggling after a hot start and stumbling to a 9-7 record heading into Thursday night’s game against SMU.

After the Tigers’ 70–62 loss at FedEx Forum, their eighth in 12 games, a frustrated Hardaway unloaded on the reporters in the room after being asked if he had faith he could get the job done as head coach.

“This media gets f—ed up sometimes when it comes to me,” Hardaway said. “We don’t have our full roster, Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. Stop asking me stupid f—ing questions about if I feel like I can do something. If I had my roster like they did, then I feel like I can do whatever I want to do. I’m coaching really hard. My boys are playing really hard. I’m not embarrassed about nothing.

“We have four freshman starters. Y’all need to act like it. Act like we have 17 and 18-year olds trying to learn how to play against 22, 23, and 24-year old guys. Stop disrespecting me, bro. Don’t do that. I work way too f—ing hard. All I do is work.”

It’s certainly true that the Tigers have been decimated by injuries this season. Memphis’ leading scorer DeAndre Williams has missed the last four games while top passer Landers Nolley II and Jayden Hardaway both missed their second straight game. Senior guard Alex Lomax, sophomore guard Earl Timberlake, freshman Emoni Bates, and freshman Jalen Duren have all missed time in recent weeks as well.

With the struggles and Hardaway’s very clear frustrations, he said that the mood of the team is down but he’s hopeful that they’ll have something to show for it in a few months.

“It’s down, because this is not what we expected,” he said. “I don’t like to get out of character, but I’m just kind of – we’re hurt, man. Our roster is depleted right now of guys that can definitely make a difference and help the young guys get through this. Right now, they’re having to learn on the fly. It’s hard.”

For Hardaway’s sake, the program does need to start making NCAA Tournaments soon. There are only so many top-rated recruiting classes that you can take to the NIT and yelling at all the reporters in the world won’t solve that.

[Cassie Carlson, USA Today]

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.