Minnesota makes it official, formally fires Tubby Smith

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Tubby Smith has been officially fired by Minnesota.

The university announced that Smith, who has been at the school since the 2007-08 season, has been relieved of his duties as head coach.

Smith issued a statement in the release on the school’s website.

“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.”

Smith had a record of 124-81 overall at Minnesota, but he was just 26-42 in Big Ten play and had his program become synonymous with February collapses. He made three NCAA tournaments and won his first tournament game this season, but lost 78-64 to No. 3 seed Florida on Sunday.

Smith came to Minnesota from Kentucky in 2007, where he won the 1998 national title. But a lack of on-court success and victories on the recruiting trail eventually did him in.

“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,” Athletic Director Norwood Teague said in a statement. “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.”

A previous report from Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, first broke the news that Smith had been fired after six years as head coach.

Three notes to think about as Minnesota begins their search for a head coach at the same time that UCLA and USC will be looking:

– Norwood Teague, Minnesota’s AD, and Mike Ellis, Minnesota’s assistant AD, arrived at Minnesota from VCU. At VCU, they hired Shaka Smart. I doubt that Shaka would turn down UCLA, where he appears to be the favorite, for Minnesota, when he already shot down Illinois, but I’m sure the Teague and Ellis will make a run at him.

– Ellis runs Villa 7, which is a networking project that connects elite assistant coaches with athletic directors around the country. It’s how guys like Smart, Josh Pastner, Buzz Williams and Dave Rice, among 90 or so others, got their head coaching gigs. He’s connected.

– Minnesota might actually a better job than people realize. The state produces quite a bit of hoops talent, and it’s the only Division I program in the state. There are facilities and money and a fanbase. The only problem? There may also be a limit to how good the program can be. With the likes of Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, the Gophers will never be among the elite in their own conference, let alone in the country. Tubby Smith won 20 games in five of the six years he was a head coach and made three NCAA tournaments. Before he was hired, the Gophers had been to the tournament once since 1999 and won 20 games once since 1998.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.