Tubby Smith leaving Memphis after 21-win season

Tubby Smith is no longer the coach at Memphis after two seasons, including a 21-win campaign this year.?Former Tigers standout Penny Hardaway has emerged as the front-runner to replace him, sources told ESPN.

"After considerable deliberations and in the best financial interest of the University of Memphis, an agreement of separation with Head Men's Basketball Coach Tubby Smith has been reached," the school said in a statement. "Details are to be finalized, and no further comment will be offered."

Smith, 66, replaced Josh Pastner in 2016 after three seasons at Texas Tech but never seemed to fit with the Tigers. He struggled on the recruiting trail and failed to reach the postseason in either season in Memphis.

Memphis finished 19-13 (9-9 in the American Athletic Conference) in Smith's first season, then went 21-13 (10-8) this season.

Smith has been a Division I head coach since 1991, making 18 NCAA tournament appearances -- including 14 straight from 1994 to 2007. He won a national championship with Kentucky in 1998. He also spent time with Tulsa, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas Tech.

Smith's firing comes after more than a week of speculation that Memphis might fire him and hire Hardaway. Last week, Smith's attorney, Ricky Lefft, defended the job Smith has done at Memphis, saying Smith deserved an "A" for his performance this season. After beating USF in the American tournament opening round Thursday, Smith said he felt "pretty comfortable, pretty confident about what we've done this year and how we're growing the program."

Memphis made it to the American tournament semifinals despite losing leading scorer Jeremiah Martin to a broken foot in February. Still, the Tigers were able to win seven of their final nine games.

Hardaway is the coach of the Memphis East High School team, which is playing in the state tournament. If they win two more games, they would make the finals on Saturday, and sources told ESPN that Memphis will not make a decision before that time.

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.

"Who knows?" Smith said.

Information from ESPN's Andrea Adelson was used in this report.