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Updated: March 14th, 2011 3:32pm
Report: Arkansas close to hiring away Gophers coach Tubby Smith

Report: Arkansas close to hiring away Gophers coach Tubby Smith

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Tubby Smith's fourth season as Gophers men's basketball coach effectively ended on Sunday night, when the National Invitation Tournament passed on his slumping team for its 32-team field.

Now, it appears there's a chance Smith may have coached his final game at the "U".

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported on Monday afternoon that Smith has had a face-to-face meeting with University of Arkansas officials, who are close to hiring the 59-year-old for their vacant head-coaching position.

Smith signed a seven-year deal with the "U" in 2007 and compiled an 80-53 record over four seasons that included two bids to the NCAA Tournament and a third to the NIT. But this year's team stumbled badly down the stretch as injuries and defections thinned the backcourt, losing 10 of its last 11 games to finish 17-14 -- Smith's worst mark in 18 years.

Like last year, when he flirted with Auburn and Oregon, Smith said recently he's working on a contract extension that would keep him with the Gophers. However, the backdrop is far different this time around. The last time a Smith-coached team didn't make the postseason was 1993, prior to consecutive NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances at Tulsa that springboarded Smith to Georgia, Kentucky and then the "U".

Arkansas -- which fired John Pelphrey on Sunday after four seasons and a 69-59 record -- also has had "informal contact" with former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, the Star-Telegram reported. Other coaches linked as possibilities for the opening include Missouri's Mike Anderson, Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon, Marquette's Buzz Williams and Kansas State's Frank Martin.

Meanwhile, the Web site SportsByBrooks.com said Smith also is on the short list to replace former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Sidney Lowe as North Carolina State's coach.

A University of Minnesota spokesman said the school would not comment on speculation.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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