That's a Clown Question, Bro

Penny Hardaway hammers reporters with explicit press-conference tirade, no longer wants "all the smoke"

January 21, 2022

Show of hands: Who remembers 2019? I know, I know. Three years ago by the calendar, three centuries by feel. Call it the COVID windchill factor. Way back then, Penny Hardaway, the fresh-faced new coach of Memphis basketball, was in a good mood. The Tigers had just landed the number-one recruiting class in America and Hardaway started counting his rings like South Beach Bron. “This is Memphis,” he told reporters. “We don’t bluff. We want all the smoke.”

That was then and this is now, however, and like we said, then was a very long time ago. As it currently stands, Memphis, decimated by COVID and injury, are steaming toward a fourth-straight March Madness-less season under Hardaway. On Thursday night, the situation went from bad to ugly, when the Tigers lost to SMU, leaving even their NIT bid on life support. After game, Hardaway was grilled by reporters, who questioned the numerous transfer portal moves, the Tigers’ three-game losing streak, and Hardaway’s future with the program. Safe to say Hardaway no longer wants “all that smoke.”

OK, so first of all, some empathy for Hardaway. He says he’s “coaching really hard” and his boys are “playing really hard” and we believe him. We also understand that it sucks to do all that and still lose, often for issues outside of your control (injuries, COVID, et. al). That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and local sports media and the rabid fanbases for which they are mouthpieces do not care said if pill gets stuck in that really annoying place just below your throat and just above your chest. You know the spot.

If history has taught us anything, however, it’s that you should never, EVER go Full Mike Gundy, and Hardaway was dangerously close to that threshold on Thursday. It’s good to defend your kids, it’s less good but still OK to defend yourself, but somebody should let Hardaway in on a few of the following points:

+ Lots of teams are hurt, lots of teams are sick. The good programs cope, the dysfunctional ones don’t.

+ The surest way to get a room full of reporters to ask you “stupid f—king questions” is to say “stop asking me stupid f—king questions.”

+ Ask for the smoke, and the smoke you shall receive.

We’ll see if Hardaway survives this little outburst. These are generally the kind of meltdowns that precede a “mutual parting of ways,” but who knows. Stranger things have happened. Maybe the smoke becomes fire and Memphis get hot. Either way, we're willing to bet this won't be Penny’s last f-bomb as head coach of Memphis.