Memphis fires head coach Tubby Smith

Memphis fires head coach Tubby Smith

Memphis issued a statement saying only that an agreement of "separation" had been reached in the "best financial interest" of the university with details still to be finalized.

Smith was asked whether he thought he coached his last game with the Tigers after a 70-60 loss to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals Saturday. The current front-runner is former Memphis and National Basketball Association star Penny Hardaway who has become a prominent high school coach since leaving the professional ranks as a player. Since leaving Kentucky in 2007, Smith has also coached at Minnesota and Texas Tech.

Smith arrived to Memphis and inherited situations like Keelon Lawson, the father of two players and another highly sought after local recruit who was hired by Pastner as an assistant so his kids would play for the Tigers. (Terms of his buyout will be updated when made available.) Smith announced he is no longer the Tiger head coach after a brief meeting Wednesday morning with U of M president David Rudd.

Smith has about $10 million and three years remaining on a five-year contract. The Tiger job would be the first college gig for Hardaway who happens to be a few months older than Finch was when he was sacked by the university after the 1996-97 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.

That combination hurts Memphis, which failed in its 2016 bid to join the Big 12.

Smith has had a tumultuous, but not disastrous, two years in Memphis.

Hardaway played at Memphis and with the Orlando Magic, becoming a four-time NBA All-Star playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal.

Hardaway has spent the last several years coaching at powerhouse East High School and appears ready to make the jump to college basketball.