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Seeking 'fresh set of eyes,' U fires Tubby Smith

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The University of Minnesota has relieved Tubby Smith of his head coaching duties for the men's basketball team.

The word came this morning, one day after the Gophers were ousted from the NCAA basketball tournament, falling to Florida 78-64.

The University issued a news release today, confirming Smith's firing. In part, athletics director Norwood Teague wrote that "it's time for a fresh set of eyes for our student-athletes."

Later, at a news conference on campus, Teague added that Smith -- and his entire staff -- had been relieved.

"We felt now that it was time to make a change ... as we build for the future," Teague said. "I refuse to feel that we cannot grow as a program ... and if we bring someone in [with a] fresh approach and fresh ideas, we can surprise ourselves."

Smith told the Pioneer Press that he'll "do some soul-searching" before he decides his next move. Smith, who turns 62 in June, said he doesn't know if he'll continue coaching.

As for Smith's replacement, Teague said the goal is to hire someone as soon as possible, but there's "no time-frame on hiring a coach" ... and that the University is "talking to a variety of candidates, both locally and nationally."

Asked if Smith would have been retained had the Gophers advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA basketball tournament, Teague said: "I don't want to speculate on that. I don't know."

Teague said Smith was "very gracious" when he was told the news today.

"I could see the disappointment in his eyes," Teague said. "I don't think he was totally surprised."

In an official statement, Smith thanked the U for giving him the opportunity to lead the Gophers for six years.

"Our staff did things the right way and will leave knowing that the program is in far better shape than when we arrived," Smith wrote.

Rumors are flying that former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders might be Smith's replacement. Twitter was buzzing that another name being floated is Shaka Smart, coach at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Teague was Smart's boss at VCU before he came to Minnesota. The Star Tribune says there is yet another name in the mix: Alabama coach Anthony Grant.

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