MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The University of Memphis is parting ways with head basketball coach Tubby Smith.
The school released the following statement:
Smith took to Twitter to issue the following statement:
Smith has had a tumultuous, but not disastrous, two years in Memphis.
A former national champion head coach at Kentucky, Smith was brought in to replace Josh Pastner, who left for Georgia Tech after much of the Tigers' fanbase had soured on the once-popular coach.
Smith never matched his elite success at Kentucky, but had two respectable seasons at Memphis, notching 40 wins and narrowly missing the NIT twice. However, in Smith's final season, the Tigers were outscored 71.2-70.8 per game--marking only the third time since 1970 that Memphis was outscored for the season.
Still, Memphis has not made the postseason in four years and the fans have become increasingly impatient waiting for a team that was once a near-lock for a NCAA Tournament bid to turn things around. Smith is only the third coach since 1951 to miss the postseason entirely during his first two seasons at Memphis.
Attendance has dropped from an average of 16,000 just four years ago to 6,000 this season. Donations are down $1.1 million, and the school is likely to miss out on its usual $800,000 payment from the Grizzlies due to the low attendance at FedExForum.
Smith, who signed a five year, $15 million deal in 2016, has shouldered much of the blame.
Memphis will need to eat nearly $10 million, which was guaranteed under Smith's contract. With attendance at its lowest in nearly 50 years, the university may be willing to eat that cost to turn things around in other spots.
While no replacement coach has been announced, a reunion with former U of M star Penny Hardaway may be in the books.
Last week, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported that multiple sources told him Memphis was looking at Penny Hardaway as Smith's replacement.
Hardaway has spent the last several years coaching at powerhouse East High School and appears ready to make the jump to college basketball.
Parrish reported that a source told him Hall of Famer Larry Brown could be part of Hardaway's staff at Memphis. USA Today's Dan Wolken added Monday that another possible assistant for the staff is former Grizzlies star Mike Miller, multiple people told him,
If Memphis is unable to hire Hardaway, it's likely that another team comes calling.
Memphis players took to social media to react to the news of Smith's firing.