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• It takes a big personality or a big winner to thrive in a big job like Kentucky's, and Tubby Smith has been neither of late. That's why his move to Minnesota is a big win for everyone involved, Pat Forde writes. Story
• Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi found out six weeks ago that Tubby Smith was willing to leave Kentucky and come to Minnesota. Story
"On behalf of the University of Kentucky, I'd like to express sincere appreciation to Tubby Smith, his family and his staff," Barnhart said in a statement. "Tubby has always put a priority on the growth of the student-athlete while representing the Commonwealth with class, and we thank him for that. We wish him the very best at the University of Minnesota. They are getting a solid coach and a great person."According to sources, Smith called Monson for an education about the opening, Minnesota's basketball facilities, the atmosphere around the program, and how the job compares to others in the Big Ten. The program was on probation for five of Monson's seven seasons after an academic scandal under former coach Clem Haskins. Monson cleaned up the program, but the Gophers didn't win; they were 9-22 this season, 3-13 in the Big Ten. During his decade at Kentucky, where he replaced Rick Pitino, Smith was 263-83 and reached the NCAA Tournament every season, winning the national title in 1998 -- Smith's first season in Lexington. But the Wildcats have not been back to the Final Four since, the longest drought in school history.
"Tubby is an outstanding individual and he's been a credit to the conference and a credit to the game," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "We definitely wish him well. Kentuucky has a great basketball tradition, and that great tradition will continue as the university moves ahead."
Tubby Smith talks about his decision to leave Kentucky after 10 seasons for Minnesota on "Mike & Mike
in the Morning" on ESPN Radio. Listen
• Andy Katz talks about the process that led Smith to Minnesota and his potential replacements. Listen
• Doug Gottlieb thinks Minnesota is a better fit for Smith. Listen
• Jay Bilas is happy Smith is moving on, and on his own terms. Listen
"Ever since my senior year of high school, there was always speculation that he'd be gone," the Houston Rockets' Chuck Hayes, who played for Smith at Kentucky from 2001-05 told The Associated Press. "After every season, there were always rumors. I thought it was just rumors again this year, people talking."Earlier this month, before the Wildcats played their first-round NCAA Tournament game, Barnhart issued a statement supporting Smith, saying "Tubby's our basketball coach."
But Barnhart also said that he and Smith would sit down after the season to discuss potential changes -- and declined to say whether any of Smith's assistants might be replaced.On Mike & Mike in the Morning, Smith said he was certain he would have finished the final four years of his contract at Kentucky despite sniping by some fans and boosters. "That was not an issue, whether I was going to be the coach. I had four years on my contract. That had nothing to do with it," Smith said.