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Penny Hardaway returning to his alma mater at Memphis as the head coach has reinvigorated the fanbase, as well as the basketball program that had steadily lost steam nationally over the last few years under the direction of Josh Pastner and then Tubby Smith.
Hardaway joined CBS SPORTS HQ's Reiter's Block -- the full interview is in the video above -- on Monday to discuss the challenges he faces in his new role. And while it's easy to sense why Memphis is flush with excitement since his hire, Hardaway also admitted that there's plenty of pressure for him to succeed.
"There's pressure. I'm putting all the chips on the table. My reputation, my legacy that I have on this city, it could all be tarnished if things go poorly," Hardaway told host Bill Reiter. "But that's what I'm willing to do because I am very confident I can come here and make a difference. But there is pressure.
"It comes from being a hometown hero born and raised here, and going to the [University of Memphis.] And coming back at a time when the college and the city wants Memphis to do well. There is pressure, but I'm ready for the pressure."
Hardaway had an illustrious career both at Memphis and in the NBA before returning to his alma mater as head coach, but he's far from the first to do so. Fred Hoiberg returned to Iowa State with mostly success, but there have also been other figures returning to their alma maters that have netted mixed results elsewhere, such as Chris Mullin at St. John's.
So in Hardaway's words, what is it that makes him fit to take over Memphis, and what will make him successful?
"I've coached grassroots for eight years, I coached middle school and I coached high school," Hardaway said. "I'm very familiar with the local talent, and I'm familiar with the national talent. So that gives me kind of an upper hand."
Hardaway's roots are the center of what made his hire so appealing for Memphis fans desperate for hope after a below average season. His success as a coach, coupled with his projected success as a recruiter, is why season ticket sales will likely skyrocket in the coming weeks.
Hardaway's sales pitch as a recruiter is genuine, too. Not only is he selling his program so he can get recruits and, in turn, build a better basketball program. He's selling a university he wants to see succeed, and a city he doesn't want to disappoint.
"The city kind of raised me. The team is the heartbeat of the city. Everyone bleeds blue and gray, and I will sell that to kids .. I'm going to fight as hard as I can because of those reasons, for the love of my city, and wanting the school to succeed."