Penny Hardaway AAC Coach of the Year?

Penny Hardaway expected to contend for Coach of the Year honors in AAC


Being the head coach of a college basketball team is never easy. Whether dealing with the attitude of a tempestuous young star, losing a player to a sports injury like a closed head injury, or seeing them move on to the professional sports leagues, college coaching is never the same from season to season. Facing up to that challenge is where many coaches fall: they might succeed with one group, but what about the ones who come after?

That is why naming Coach of the Year nominees is always so hard in college sports, especially basketball. The transient nature of teams means that coaches typically see their best move on, leaving them with projects which might never quite reach the level of refinement expected. COTY, then, is not easy to judge – but one coach who might have a good shot at it this year is Penny Hardaway.

Hardaway is finally back on the bench coaching the Memphis Tigers after being accused of committing ‘multiple’ NCAA violations. It was a controversial moment for the successful coach, and it could have seen him lose his job. Despite all of the infractions and the controversy, Hardaway will be back coaching the Tigers this year – and he could be set to have an extremely successful season if everything plays out as it should.

What makes Penny Hardaway a Coach of the Year candidate?

Well, for one, he has the team to go all the way. His team will have DeAndre Williams, who is returning after last season. Average of 11.1 points per game, Williams is one of the better players on the Tigers roster. To have him returning is a huge bonus. Given how many starters have moved on from last season until now, keeping someone with the coolness and consistency of Williams is huge.

The arrival of SMU transfer Kendric Davis, though, is massive. Averaging a whopping 19.4PPG, Davis could be one of the division's best players. Hardaway is known to be solid with development and could be seen as the ideal coach to help elevate the game of both players to the next level.

Though there is still an obvious cloud of controversy hanging over the Tigers and their coach, there is no doubt they have responded from a bruising summer. They will have a squad that should have a realistic shot at lifting the AAC title. That will not be easy, with Houston Cougars – and Kelvin Sampson, another COTY candidate – enjoying an excellent recruitment period and seeing major stars like Tramon Mark returning.

Hardaway, though, will be flying the plane while it is being built. He will have a limited squad compared to previous seasons, but he has the team and the personality to overcome a cloudy period of results. While it might not come off in the end, Hardaway is a coach who can juggle challenges and controversy better than most.

Can he take his team to the title and win COTY honors himself? It’s hard to find an argument against it. Hardaway is used to overcoming difficult periods to find success, and this season could be just another example of his perseverance.