MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Less than 24 hours after losing to Florida in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Tubby Smith is out as the Gopher men’s basketball coach.
WCCO-TV Sports Director Mark Rosen has confirmed that Smith was fired Monday, and the University of Minnesota made the news official with a news release just after 1:30 p.m. Monday. Smith, 61, went 124-81 at Minnesota and won his first NCAA Tournament game Friday night against UCLA. Smith went 46-62 in Big 10 Conference play, and Minnesota got to the NCAA three times in his six seasons.
After getting a contract extension before last season, it would cost the University of Minnesota about $2.5 million to buy out the remainder of Smith’s contract.
The Gophers finished the season 21-13 overall, including an 8-10 mark in the Big 10 Conference. The Gophers lost 11 of their last 16 heading into the Big 10 Tournament, where they lost to Illinois in the opening round. The Gophers started 15-1 this season and were ranked as high as No. 8 in the national rankings before they hit a losing streak in the conference season. Smith received a $100,000 bonus for reaching the NCAA Tournament and got another $50,000 for winning one NCAA Tournament game.
In six years, Smith never led the Gophers to an above .500 finish in the Big 10 Conference. In a news release, Athletic Director Norwood Teague said it’s time for a fresh set of eyes for the student-athletes and the program in general.
“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,” Teague said.
In the release, Smith thanked the University of Minnesota for the last six years.
“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,” Smith said. “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.”
At a 3 p.m. news conference, Teague confirmed that in addition to Smith, all of his assistants have been relieved, as well.
Teague said it wasn’t their intention for the news of Smith’s firing to be made public before they were able to talk with him and the team.
“Everything leaks. All the time,” he said. “We didn’t intentionally do that.”
He said when he sat down to tell Smith, it was a tough conversation.
“He was very gracious,” he said. “I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I didn’t think he was totally surprised.”
Teague said they won’t be hiring a firm to search for a replacement. Instead, the athletic department will lead the search themselves.
He said they’ve already talked with a number of candidates — both internally and nationally — but said he couldn’t reveal any of those names at this time.
“This program needs to be good, and it has the potential to be good, if not great,” Teague said.