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Tubby Smith Surprisingly Fired as Minnesota Coach

tubbyTubby Smith, who signed a three-year contract extension with Minnesota in July, was fired by the Gophers on Monday, the day after his team lost to Florida in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

“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,” Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said in a statement released by the school. “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.”

Smith earned about $2 million annually, with a $600,000 base salary plus 5 percent annual raises he had been entitled to since 2008 and supplemental compensation of $1.2 million.

“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 the news release. “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.”

The contract of former Kentucky coach, who won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1999, states that if he was terminated before April 30, 2016, the university will pay one-half of his base salary and supplemental compensation for each of the remaining seasons on the contract. The total amount cannot exceed $2.5 million.

The 11th-seeded Gophers were 21-13 and 8-10 in the Big Ten after the 78-64 loss to the No. 3 seed Gators. For his career at Minnesota, Smith was 124-81 with NCAA Tournament berths in half of his six years there.

In 2012, his team finished with 23 victories, the most by the program since the 1996-97 Final Four season that was later erased by NCAA punishment.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, for one, was surprised by the news.

“It’ll be a loss for this league and a loss for college basketball if he doesn’t stay in it,” Izzo said to reporters. “He’s got integrity beyond belief and let me tell ya, he’s been in some tough situations. I’ll close it up by saying it bothers me, saddens me.”

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