Memphis introduced former Tigers star Penny Hardaway as its new men’s basketball coach March 20 at the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center.
Five quick thoughts on Penny Hardaway’s contract:
1. Now that my colleague Mark Giannotto has uncovered the details, the contract is even more favorable to the University of Memphis than I thought it was when I wrote a column explaining how Hardaway had done the university an immense favor.
2. Under the terms of the contract, Hardaway will get up to $350,000 in incentives if the turnstile count at FedExForum exceeds 12,000 and season-ticket sales exceed $5 million. Understand, the turnstile count was well under 6,000 this year. So if Hardaway more than doubles attendance at Memphis games and supercharges season-ticket sales — and he will — he gets a bonus of $350,000, or not that much more than a third of the $900,000 Memphis paid just to buy out Tubby Smith’s contract at Texas Tech.
3. Want more? Hardaway will get $1.3 million the first year, $1.6 million the second year and $1.9 million the third year of the contract. Smith received more than that for his (desultory) television appearances and (grudging) public relations ($2.2 million) alone.
4. Oh, and Hardaway’s contract contains an offset clause. So if he’s fired without cause and gets a gig somewhere else his new salary will be used to offset the amount he is owed by Memphis. That sounds reasonable, right? Until you realize that neither Smith nor Josh Pastner had to agree to an offset clause.
5. What other coach agrees to a three-year contract in the first place? That’s unheard of in the universe of big-time basketball. Granted, Hardaway’s contract does include a clause providing that it will be renegotiated after the second year. You can bet that if things are rolling along the way Hardaway expects, the renegotiated contract will be substantially more lucrative. But Hardaway understood the situation the university found itself in. He just wanted a chance to coach the team. So he agreed to a deal that makes no sense at all, unless you understand that Hardaway’s ambitions involve a lot more than adding to his net worth.