A look at all the changes since Penny Hardaway took over the Memphis Tigers basketball program.
As Dwight Boyd tells it, the story of how he ended up as a member of Memphis men’s basketball coach Penny Hardaway’s first staff is more happenstance than anything.
The two former Tiger basketball stars were out to lunch together one day, about two weeks after Hardaway’s hiring became official in March, when Hardaway began going over the positions he still needed to fill.
Boyd then mentioned that director of player personnel is a role he always thought would be a good fit for him, ever since Memphis created the job two years ago so that former coach Tubby Smith could keep Keelon Lawson on staff.
It caught Hardaway off guard.
“You’d be interested in the job?” Hardaway asked.
“One thing led to another and here I am,” Boyd said earlier this week from the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center. “It’s probably something I should’ve gotten into 20 years ago.”
What Dwight Boyd is doing for Memphis basketball
More than 30 years after his decorated career on the court at Memphis ended, Boyd is back helping Tiger basketball again as the program’s new director of player personnel. He spent the past six years working within the Memphis athletic department, initially serving as the director of the M Club before becoming an assistant athletic director for community relations in conjunction with the Tiger Scholarship Fund.
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This, however, will be Boyd’s first official role for the men’s basketball program, although his responsibilities will lie off the floor.
As Boyd explained, his job is to monitor how each player and recruit associated with the team is performing academically and mentor them on life after basketball. If they need any proof of what a Memphis degree could mean, he can simply point out how it helped him.
Boyd scored more than 1,200 points during his four-year career (1984-88) with the Tigers and played on the school’s 1985 Final Four team. He then spent more than 20 years working in the marketing division for Pepsi before joining the administrative side of college sports at his alma mater in 2012.
Memphis Tigers basketball coach Penny Hardaway gives an update on the program.
Boyd believes the relationships and reputation he built at Memphis were crucial to his post-basketball career. It’s why, he said, the message he will deliver to the Tigers’ players is intended to emphasize the importance of graduating with a college degree and projecting a positive image to the city.
“You always want to carry yourself in a way that people will want to hire you to be a part of their business. Those things, that can carry you for life,” said Boyd, who mentioned former Memphis stars such as Elliot Perry, Andre Turner and Kenneth Moody as others who used their platform with the Tigers to carve out careers in the city.
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“Four years of basketball, that’s a small part of your life,” Boyd added. “But what happens is if you can take advantage of those four years, do what you’re supposed to do on and off the court, you’ll be secure for life. You’ve got a lot of different people around here who played here and did the right things and they did well. But you’ve got to do the right things.”
What Dwight Boyd is doing for Penny Hardaway
As for Hardaway, he and Boyd have been friends for years even though they never played together.
University of Memphis new head coach Penny Hardaway (middle) jokes with Providence head coach Ed Cooley (left) while scouting players on the Bluff City Legends team during Nike EYBL games in Irving, Texas, on April 20, 2018. (Photo: Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)
Boyd said Hardaway would often provide him tickets to Orlando Magic games and meet with his clients to help with his recruiting efforts.
“Penny has made my life a lot easier just by him being so gracious with his time,” Boyd said with a laugh.
Boyd’s experience working for the Memphis athletic department should come in handy for a first-time college coach like Hardaway. Boyd knows the ins-and-outs of the department’s fundraising arm and he’s familiar with the team’s returning players because he often attended games and practices as an observer last season.
Boyd also knows about the intricacy of NCAA rules and regulations, and he believes the compliance aspect of the job will be the main thing Hardaway must overcome initially.
“You need to know those rules, and rules that you think are simple, they’re really not simple,” Boyd said. “They come with consequences, so that’s the only thing I think the transition will be a little trouble for him. But from a basketball coaching perspective, I think that’s going to be a no brainer.”
In that regard, Boyd has been blown away by Hardaway’s attention to detail thus far.
He said the Tigers’ new coach already has a game plan “as far as how he wants to play, the style that he wants to play, the teams that we’re going to play, their top scorers that they have.”
But as excited as he is about what Hardaway could achieve, Boyd insisted he’s simply focused on how he can help Memphis and its players when the games aren’t being played.
“I’m not saying whether we’re going to win a national championship because I’ll let coach handle that piece of it,” Boyd said. “My part is to make sure these young men that we have on this team be productive citizens after basketball is over with. I want to be sure that I’m here to help them with whatever they decide to do.”