Minnesota coach Tubby Smith was fired Monday on the heels of the Gophers' second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Smith compiled a 124-81 record, including 46-62 in the Big Ten, in his six years as Golden Gophers coach. Minnesota won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament last week against UCLA, but new athletic director Norwood Teague decided to part ways with the 61-year-old Smith and buy out his contract. "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," Teague said. "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." Minnesota gave Smith a three-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season last summer. He is making nearly $2 million per year. Teague and assistant AD Mike Ellis hired Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth in 2009 and will reportedly try to bring him to Minnesota to replace Smith. Smart has built VCU into a mid-major power and has turned down other offers, opting to remain with the Rams. Smith took Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament in three of his six seasons. The tournament win over UCLA was the Gophers' first in Smith's tenure. They started the season at 15-1, before falling in 12 of their last 18 games. Minnesota, a No. 11 seed, upset No. 6 UCLA and then lost to No. 3 Florida to finish 21-13. Smith won a national championship in his first year at Kentucky in 1998 and is 511-226 over his 22-year coaching career, which also includes stints with Tulsa and Georgia. He arrived at Minnesota in 2007. "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," Smith said in a statement. "Our staff did things the right way and will leave knowing that the program is in far better shape than when we arrived." Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders is also expected to emerge as a candidate, as well as Marquette coach Buzz Williams. The Gophers will lose frontcourt players Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams but expect to return guards Andre and Austin Hollins.
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