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KNOXVILLE — New Tennessee athletic director John Currie made his first coaching move this week.

Currie fired men's tennis coach Sam Winterbotham on Thursday, six days after the Volunteers' season ended with a second-round loss in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Winterbotham coached at Tennessee for 11 seasons, with the Vols making the NCAA tournament in his first nine and reaching the 2010 final. But his teams were 3-21 in SEC play over the past two seasons.

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Tennessee athletic director John Currie (Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess)

"Today's decision came as a surprise, but I own the fact that you expect better results than the ones I have given you in the past few seasons," Winterbotham wrote in a message posted to his Twitter account (@volscoach).

Currie, who began his tenure April 1, will lead a four-person committee in a "national search" for Winterbotham's replacement. Associate head coach Chris Woodruff will serve as interim head coach and accompany sophomore Timo Stodder to the singles tournament at the NCAA championships this month.

"I want to thank Sam for his 11 years of service to the University of Tennessee, which were highlighted by three SEC titles and an appearance in the NCAA team final," Currie said in a university news release.

The Vols went 217-104 in 11 seasons with Winterbotham, who had one year left on his contract and will receive a $181,873 buyout, which equates to one year's salary.

"It truly has been an honor to be your tennis coach, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity," Winterbotham wrote. "Thank you (former athletic director) Mike Hamilton for taking that chance.

"To everyone over the past 11 years that has touched our program and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to provide our athletes with such a first class experience. THANK YOU!!! We could not have had the success we had without you."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.

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