5 candidates for the Orlando Magic’s latest coaching search

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Anfernee Hardaway, Memphis Tigers
Memphis Tigers head coach Anfernee Hardaway encourages the team in the first half of a men’s NCAA basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati.Memphis Tigers At Cincinnati Bearcats Feb 28 /

Anfernee Hardaway

Even before the Orlando Magic parted with Steve Clifford, fans online were calling for the team to hire Anfernee Hardaway. This is a bit of fantasy booking from a nostalgic fan base. He was the coaching candidate that the media asked Jeff Weltman directly about during his press conference.

Hardaway is deeply entwined with the Orlando psyche and there is clear narrative interest behind hiring Hardaway. The moment he emerged as a college coach, people wanted to bring Hardaway “home” to Orlando as their head coach.

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Never mind, Hardaway is a lifelong Memphis resident who has done nothing but give back to that community first as a middle school coach then as an AAU coach and then as Memphis’ coach in college.

There is something of a split opinion on Hardaway as a coaching candidate among basketball people despite the fans’ push to bring him back to Orlando. And it starts with his coaching record so far.

Hardaway has undoubtedly created a strong connection with a young generation of players. His recruiting success at Memphis — the No. 15 recuriting class in 2021, No. 24 class in 2020 and the No. 1 class in 2019 (led by James Wiseman) according to 247Sports.com — shows his ability to reach a young group.

So far, the results on the court have not matched. True, Wiseman was deemed ineligible for the 2020 season, derailing a super-talented Memphis team, but Hardaway has not reached the NCAA Tournament in three seasons as head coach.

His NIT championsip win last year is a sign that he is getting his legs under him as a head coach. So there may be a future for Hardaway in the NBA if he wants it. But right now, he should probably continue plying his trade in college and building on that success.

For a young team like the Magic, they need a steady hand and not someone who is still learning how to coach at higher levels or whether he is a successful coach at the level he is currently at.

Hardaway might still get there, but he probably is not there yet.

Other college coaches to consider: Juwan Howard, Jay Wright, Jerry Stackhouse, Patrick Ewing