The Orlando Magic remain one of the few NBA teams with a head coaching vacancy headed into late June. But that might not be the case for much longer.
Hardaway took over his alma mater in 2018 in his first major job on the sidelines. He’s racked up a record of 63–32 as the Tigers’ head coach but has yet to get the program back over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament in his first three years.
In the 1990s, Hardaway became a star for the Magic, making four All-Star teams and forming one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA alongside Shaquille O’Neal. A series of injuries slowed down his meteoric rise, but he proved to be a reliable leader on the court, which has carried over to his role as a coach.
Hardaway might be headed back to Orlando soon enough, if the Magic want to stick by their former star. Although the team has requested interviews from a handful of other candidates, the Memphis head coach seems will poised to fill the opening.
I was told by someone with the Magic that Penny Hardaway was their "dream candidate". https://t.co/fX1WInMbEJ
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 27, 2021
Said three weeks ago Penny Hardaway was a legitimate candidate with the Orlando Magic, and Memphis were FURIOUS at the suggestion
Three weeks later…
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) June 27, 2021
I don’t know whether or not this would be the right hire, but as a huge Penny Hardaway fan growing up, I’m all in favor of this, if it ends up being the final decision. https://t.co/fEHrm4CwQe
— Justin Rocke (@JustinRocke) June 27, 2021
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 27, 2021
If Hardaway does get offered the Magic job, he’ll have his work cut out for him. Orlando went 21-51 during the 2020-21 season and missed out on the playoffs by a wide margin.
Here’s what I’ve heard on Penny Hardaway/Magic job …
Interview took place this weekend. Magic officials went into it expecting it to be more of a formality/courtesy. It went MUCH longer than they thought it would. Hardaway obviously impressed them, and here we are.
— John Martin (@JohnMartin929) June 27, 2021
However, the Magic have plenty to look forward too as they try to build up a young roster. Hardaway would inherit a group built around core players Jonathan Isaac, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Wendell Carter Jr. and R.J. Hampton, none of whom are older than 23 years of age.
With the Celtics, Pacers and Mavericks all filling their vacancies already, the Magic will be eager to get the right head coach in the building as soon as possible. Time will tell if Hardaway is the organization’s final choice.