Tubby Smith has been dismissed as University of Memphis men's basketball coach. His departure comes with three years and more than $9 million remaining on his contract. (Terms of his buyout will be updated when made available.) Smith announced he is no longer the Tiger head coach after a brief meeting Wednesday morning with U of M president David Rudd.
A brief statement from the university was released after Wednesday's meeting: "After considerable deliberations and in the best financial interests of the University of Memphis, an agreement of separation with head men's basketball coach Tubby Smith has been reached."
Smith posted an overall record of 40-26 over his two seasons at the Memphis helm, but failed to get the Tigers to the postseason (NCAA tournament or NIT), extending a drought that now measures four years. A significant portion of his roster at the end of the 2016-17 season — most notably brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson — chose to transfer with eligibility remaining. This forced Smith and his staff to replenish the program with junior-college transfers like Kyvon Davenport, Kareem Brewton, and Mike Parks. Smith was unable to land prize recruits, including local talent like East High's Alex Lomax or Cordova's Tyler Harris. Worst of all for Smith, attendance at FedExForum plummeted to an average of 6,225 in 2017-18, the lowest figure since the Tigers played at the Mid-South Coliseum in 1969-70 (the year before Larry Finch first suited up for Memphis State).
Memphis is the first of six career stops on Smith's head-coaching resume where he failed to take a team to the NCAA tournament. He has taken teams to the Sweet Sixteen nine times (but not since 2005) and won the 1998 national championship with Kentucky. He leaves Memphis with a career record of 597-302.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks that former Tiger and NBA star Penny Hardaway will be hired to succeed Smith. Hardaway is currently coaching the East High Mustangs, a team favored to win its third straight state title this week in Murfreesboro. The Tiger job would be the first college gig for Hardaway who happens to be a few months older than Finch was when he was fired by the university after the 1996-97 season.