Tubby Smith fired; new U of M basketball coach already in place?
Tubby just finished the most successful season during his U tenure, but that isn't saying much.
Image by Tatiana Craine
One NCAA tournament win apparently wasn't enough to save Tubby Smith's job.
Late this morning, CBS's Jeff Goodman reported that one day after losing in the round of 32 to Florida, Tubby has been fired. During his six seasons at the U he amassed a 124-81 overall record and made the NCAA tournament three times. That's not bad, but a 46-62 Big Ten record to go along with just one Big Dance victory is, and new athletic director Norwood Teague has apparently decided to go in a different direction.
Tubby's contract comes with a $2.5 million buyout. Last summer, he signed a contract extension that gave him a slight raise and increased his buyout amount from $1.5 million. As we reported in December, Smith's $1.9 million income during fiscal year 2012 made him the highest-paid U employee.
According to Gophers sports blogger Nadine Babu, a source says another coach has already agreed to become Tubby's replacement. KFAN's Dan Barrerio reports that if an agreement is already in place, it isn't with U of M alum and former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who has been rumored to be a possible successor to Tubby.
The Star Tribune runs down some other possibilities:
[C]oaches at the top of the search list would include Shaka Smart and Anthony Grant -- both of whom worked for Teague at VCU. Smart is still the coach at VCU, while Grant is the head coach now at Alabama. Brad Stevens, who took Butler to back-to-back NCAA title games, also has a good relationship with Teague.
:::: UPDATE ::::
1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson, citing a conversation with Smith's agent, reports that if reports of Tubby's termination are true, Smith and his staff have yet to be notified by Teague or any other school officials.
But as soon as we published that last update, news of Smith's firing was confirmed by the Pioneer Press's Mila Koumpilova:
U basketball coach Tubby Smith is out, Board of Regents Chair Linda Cohen confirms. She got 8 am voicemail from President Kaler-- Mila Koumpilova (@MilaPiPress) March 25, 2013
The U of M just released a statement discussing Smith's termination:
Tubby Smith Relieved of Coaching Duties at Minnesota
University of Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague announced today that head basketball coach Tubby Smith has been relieved of his coaching duties, effective immediately. A national search for the 17th men's head basketball coach in the history of the Golden Gopher program is ongoing.
"Tubby has had a long and distinguished career and we feel it's time for a fresh set of eyes for our student-athletes and our program in general," Teague said. "We are grateful to Tubby and his entire staff for their hard work and dedication to this University, our students and the entire Minnesota community. We wish Tubby, Donna and the entire staff well."
Smith compiled a record of 124-81 (.610) in his six seasons at the helm in Gold Country and led the program to five postseason berths. The Gophers' postseason accomplishments under Smith include a run to the finals of the 2012 NIT at Madison Square Garden and most recently, a win over UCLA in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
"I want to thank the University of Minnesota and the people of Minnesota for giving me the opportunity to lead the Golden Gopher basketball program for six years," said Smith. "Our staff did things the right way and will leave knowing that the program is in far better shape than when we arrived. The people of the State of Minnesota embraced Donna and me from the beginning and we will always be grateful."
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