MEMPHIS, Tenn.–Nothing Penny Hardaway has done this season has been conventional, especially when piecing together his first staff. Forget how everyone else has done it.
“Each person brings something unique and different, which is what you want on a staff. If everyone does stuff similar, you are not getting the most out of people. So everyone brings something different,” said Mike Miller.
Penny’s first hire, Tony Madlock, the native Memphian and former Tiger, who played with Penny on the Tigers 1992 elite 8 team. Helping turn this program around is personal for him too.
“For him to call me and to say ‘hey let’s do something special here’ and you can look up there and see what it says. It’s the city’s team, we talk about it every single day. That’s what we want to do. We want to get Memphis basketball back to when we played and to the guys that played before us,” said Tony Madlock.
Then you got the sharp 3-point shooting former Grizzly, Mike Miller, who is coaching for the first time ever.
“I was in a position where I was fortunate enough to do what I wanted to do for 17 years, it was a blessing. For these kids in high school coming to college and once they are in college, ultimately wanting to play at the next level it’s a great opportunity to affect and help kids. It’s a great age to hep mold they aren’t too stuck in their ways yet,” said Miller.
And last but not least, there’s long time nba coach and the the 2006-07 coach of the year, Sam Mitchell, taking his first crack at college coaching as well.
“Our job as assistant coaches is to not come in with ideas about what you think we should do, it’s to take the ideas that coach Hardaway has and see how we can make them better and apply those ideas to this team to make us a better team. That’s what being an assistant coach is all about,” said Sam Mitchell.
Which makes Madlock pretty busy on this staff. Thanks to his 20 plus years experience in college coaching, when these newbies have a question, Tony has the answer.
“It’s amazing that they do. They ask that question and ask a lot of questions from day one, but one thing about all these guys is they are really smart. You tell them something one time and they have it,” said Madlock.
“Coach Madlock has a ton of experience at this level and that’s priceless for guys like me and coach Sam and obviously Penny even, haven’t been in the college business, just like any other place there is business to it. There is stuff that needs to happen and needs to be taken off the court and he brings that,” said Miller.
A staff brought together by a former Tiger great, trying to make this program elite again.
“I’m big on the fact that he didn’t need to have the job but he wanted it, I think there is a huge difference in that. Here’s a guy who has been as successful as he has, went and coached middle school and then went and coached high school and then this is his alma mater. He wants this to be great for this city and this school. Was one of the biggest reasons I did it. I think it means he is in it for the right reasons and we are going to go down fighting,” said Miller.
But at the end of it all the biggest draw for these three assistants is to teach these young men.
“Love to be around the guys in the locker room and joking with them but also letting them know how serious this is and it’s like a job and you have to treat it like that,” said Madlock.
“Every kid is different. Finding out what their language is, is it visual, is it showing them on film or talking to them. Those are the challenges I enjoy. LIke anything in business, you are only as good as your leadership is and we have to build that culture and do it the right way,” said Miller.
“In the NBA it’s pure basketball, it’s a cold hearted, win loss driven business. College is a little bit different. I like the personal relationships that you have with these guys. I say this all the time, we all feel this way, we have 14 sons on this basketball team, they become a part of who you are and I like that connection with them, I really do,” said Mitchell.