Tubby Smith is officially out at Memphis. For a few weeks, it has been reported that Tigers legend Penny Hardaway could be the next head coach.
Smith, who is formerly the head coach at Kentucky, Minnesota, and Texas Tech among other schools, had not done a terrible job at Memphis, at least on the court. After a 19-13 2016-17 season, the Tigers went 21-13 this year, with a fifth place finish in a solid AAC.
However, there are major issues on the periphery with the Memphis program. CBS Sports‘ Gary Parrish wrote about them as word began to leak out that Smith was in trouble.
Four years ago under Josh Pastner, Memphis averaged an announced attendance of more than 16,000 for games at FedExForum. This season under Smith, that number has dipped to around 6,000 — which is the lowest in nearly 50 years. And it’s likely to lead to the Memphis Grizzlies paying the school zero percent of a possible $800,000 that the NBA franchise — which operates the arena — is required to pay when certain attendance marks are hit. Beyond that, season-ticket sales are significantly down, which means donations connected to season-ticket sales are also down. And considering recruiting is at a modern-era low, and that Memphis’ current team is ranked 164th at KenPom, 74 spots worse than any of Pastner’s seven Memphis teams, there’s little enthusiasm connected to the program and no real reason to believe these troubling and costly trends will be reversed.
Now, the 66-year old Smith is officially done at Memphis. He made the announcement himself this afternoon.
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
Smith is out after just two years in Memphis. That means the school could be on the hook for a $9.75 million buyout.
Memphis legend and former NBA great Penny Hardaway is expected to be the choice to replace Tubby Smith.
Hardaway’s name has been floated since Tubby Smith has been on the hot seat. From Parrish’s CBS Sports report about the whole situation:
Memphis legend Penny Hardaway is “actively preparing to be a college coach” and has already started identifying possible future staff members, multiple sources have told CBS Sports. Meantime, Memphis president Dr. David Rudd told the Commercial Appeal on Tuesday that his administration is “going to evaluate the program at the end of the year,” which effectively confirms what CBS Sports has learned: Memphis is seriously considering firing Tubby Smith and replacing him with Hardaway.
Hardaway could also reportedly bring legendary head coach Larry Brown to join the staff. Brown was recently the head coach at SMU from 2012-16. He got SMU into some NCAA trouble, and served a suspension during his final season with the Mustangs after failing to report violations related to an assistant committing academic fraud for an SMU player.
The Hardaway hire would follow the same philosophy recently used by Georgetown and St. John’s. The Red Storm filled their opening a few years ago with program legend Chris Mullin, while the Hoyas did the same with Patrick Ewing. Ewing had extensive NBA assistant coaching experience, while Mullin did not, and Hardaway’s experience thus far is at the high school and AAU level.