Tigers roar into FedEx Forum with Penny Hardaway as coach

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — What’s the suspense of an election to the suspense of a basketball game? The Tigers took on Tennessee Tech Tuesday night at the FedEx Forum.

Carolyn Murrell and her 7-year-old grandson Kayden celebrated the start of the season with a new coach. Memphis native Penny Hardaway.

“We gonna win tonight. Believe me, we gonna win,” she said.

Hardaway, a one-time NBA star, is just as much a star in his hometown since he took the reins from former Tigers Coach Tubby Smith. Smith struggled with attendance in recent years. Turnout was slumped below their 9,000-fans-per-game benchmark.

“It was pretty sad the last couple of years. I’m expecting this place will be packed out. Pretty good crows the first two exhibition games,” Tiger fan David Bridges said.

If the crowds outside are any indicator, then attendance at games under Hardaway are already headed for an upswing. Not only are the Tigers drawing out longtime fans, they’re also sparking new interest as well.

“Everybody’s excited. Everybody I know,” Tiger fan Moses Mohamed said. “I think it’s a good thing for Memphis. I think it’s a good thing for the team.”

Add to that, Hardaway’s passion for his sport.