Memphis and basketball coach Tubby Smith have parted ways after his meeting Wednesday morning with university president David Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen, the school announced.
Here's video of Tubby Smith leaving his meeting with Memphis President David Rudd and Athletic Director Tom Bowen. pic.twitter.com/z9fiwayVpz
— Mark Giannotto (@mgiannotto) March 14, 2018
Former NBA player and Tigers star Penny Hardaway is the leading candidate to replace Smith, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.
Hardaway currently is the head coach at Memphis East High School and founder of a Memphis-based AAU team, Team Penny, which could reverse Smith's failures on the recruiting trail at the university.
Smith, 66, this season became only the second Memphis coach since 1951 to not reach a postseason tournament in either of his first two seasons during which the Tigers went 40-26.
"After considerable deliberations and in the best financial interest of the University of Memphis, an agreement of separation with Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tubby Smith has been reached," the university's athletic department said in a statement. "Details are to be finalized, and no further comment will be offered."
Smith's departure was not unexpected, according to multiple reports, and discussions of his dismissal gained steam after Memphis lost in overtime at lowly East Carolina in early February.
His buyout calls for him to be paid $9.75 million, but some financial context: Attendance at home games fell to a 48-year low this year, from 16,000 in Josh Pastner's last season as coach to 6,000 this season. Because of that, the athletic department likely will miss out on as much as $800,000 from the NBA's Grizzlies as part of the school’s lease at FedExForum.
Beyond that, CBS Sports reported, season-ticket sales are down significantly, which means donations connected to season-ticket sales are also down more than $1 million.