Penny Hardaway emerges as top candidate for Orlando Magic job

Penny Hardaway starred with the Orlando Magic from 1993-99, becoming one of the core players for the most-entertaining era in the history of the franchise.

Now, more than 20 years later, Hardaway could return to Orlando as the team’s next head coach after they parted ways with Steve Clifford.

“University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway interviewed for the Orlando Magic head-coaching job and has emerged as a serious candidate,” Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Sunday.

Hardaway’s name comes pretty much out of left field with Orlando linked to the likes of Becky Hammon, Wes Unseld Jr. and top Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee. Up until now, his name had not come up as a candidate for the vacancy.

Penny Hardaway has had recent success and could make sense

penny hardaway, orlando magic
Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway lets his team from the sidelines during a game at FedExForum in downtown Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday day, Feb.24, 2021. Memphis Vs Tulane

Hardaway took over as the head coach for his alma mater Memphis Tigers back in March of 2018. He led the team to a rebirth of sorts, posting a 63-32 record in three seasons. That included Memphis winning the NIT Tournament this past spring.

The four-time All-Star would make sense in that he’s gained a strong reputation in the player development department for Memphis, something that will be needed if he were to take on the Orlando Magic’ rebuild.

Orlando is finishing up a 2020-21 season that saw it post a 21-51 record. Ahead of the March 25 NBA trade deadline, it dealt away the likes of Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and franchise stalwart Nikola Vucevic.

To say that this team is in full-scale rebuild mode would be an understatement. It has two of the top-eight picks in the 2021 NBA Draft and a young cast of characters those in Orlando believe can be franchise cornerstones. That includes the likes of Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz.

The No. 3 pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, Penny Hardaway played in Orlando for six seasons. He teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal to lead the team to the NBA Finals in 1995 and is seen as one of the greatest players in franchise history. A reunion here could very well work.