Delk: "Mayor Of Memphis" Penny Hardaway Will Succeed At College Level

Hardaway, a hometown hero and local icon, hopes to return the Tigers to national prominence

Taz and the Moose
March 21, 2018 - 11:02 am

USA Today Images

Categories: 

Penny Hardaway has been named head coach at Memphis, and Tony Delk has no doubt that the local icon will return the Tigers to national prominence. 

“I am a huge fan of Penny,” Delk said on Taz & The Moose. “I actually played AAU basketball with the same program that he played with in Memphis, and I played with his first cousin. Penny (is a grinder). People don’t talk about where Penny started. Even him having an AAU program, Penny took over a middle school team. His best friend was dying of cancer, and he just went in and said, ‘Hey, I got you. I’m going to take care of you, and I’m going to take care of your boys.’ So he started with the middle school, goes to the high school and does exceptionally well there.”

Now he has an even bigger challenge ahead: turn Memphis, which went 40-26 over the last two seasons, into an elite program. Delk, a Tennessee native, believes Hardaway can do it. He calls him “Mayor of Memphis,” as Hardaway remains a hometown hero. 

“I just think someone that loves Memphis, he never really left,” Delk said. “Even as he played in Orlando and Phoenix and all these different places, Memphis was always home for him. He always was a home-grown guy.”

Delk led Kentucky to the national championship in 1996 – he was named MOP – but he considering playing for Memphis.

Hardaway was the main reason why.

“Memphis was probably my third school of choice,” Delk said, “but just hanging out with Penny and then I got a chance to play with him in the summer league – I was like, ‘Man…’ But I had already signed with Kentucky. At the same time, to have played with him, his knowledge of the game, having an IQ – at that time, people wasn’t talking about IQs as much, but he just had a great feel for the game.”

Hardaway, 46, played in the NBA from 1993 to 2007. He was a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA First Team selection. He has a resume that will resonate with recruits.

But he needs to adjust to the college game.

“I think it’s going to take time, and a lot of it is (hiring) the right staff, putting the right people around you, and being able to learn the college level,” Delk said. “You got to recruit – and not only recruit in Memphis, but recruit nationally. Some of those players are going to turn you down.”