Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Shaka Smart now tries to take Texas to another level

April 5, 2015 Columns No Comments

Shaka Smart finally found a job worth leaving VCU for. It was something that some thought might never happen, but was bound to – and may finally also end an annual ritual.

Ever since Smart, who will soon turn 38, took VCU on an unexpected Final Four run in his third season at the helm, his name has come up for one high-major job after another. It doesn’t matter who it was; if a high-major job opened up, his name got mentioned. When the off-season came, you knew his name would be all over the place for head coaching vacancies.

Illinois? Well, you could understand it given that Smart and athletic director Mike Thomas knew each other from their days at Akron. No go.

NC State? Naturally, since it’s right down the road. He didn’t go.

UCLA? Yeah, his name came up there. A program with a storied history, with a legendary coach in its past. No dice.

At that point, one had to wonder if Smart was holding out for, say, UConn, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville – any of the jobs that is seen as the best of the best for a coach. It seems now that he was indeed holding out, but not necessarily for one of those jobs. Instead, he was probably holding out for a job where there is potential.

Texas certainly fits that description, and now they have him. While the Longhorns have been down from the team that was a perennial power, Big 12 contender and a threat to at least reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, they were still pretty good, for the most part. This is a place where a coach can come in and win in short order; it’s not a program that’s been down for a while or with a lot working against it.

Smart is coming from another such place in VCU. While in the CAA, they had a lot working for them, from being in the heart of CAA country to charter flights for road games, a strong fan base and great facilities. The athletic department is well-run all the way around. That takes nothing away from what he did there – in fact, he took full advantage of it and turned VCU into more than just a CAA mainstay. They became a national program with more nationally televised games, and they were instantly contenders when they moved to the Atlantic 10. Smart took what was there and ran with it to another level. In fact, watch the search to replace him – whereas VCU has been a launching pad for assistants like he was, one wonders if this time around, they will want someone who is a current head coach.

What this all shows, once more, is that Shaka Smart is different. He has many pearls of wisdom, befitting the scholar that he is as a Kenyon College alum. He doesn’t forget where he came from – and that goes beyond the obvious that we learned earlier this year, when in a story on CBS Sports he talked about why he didn’t leave VCU for just any job, which is the role he plays in the lives of the young men he coaches in light of his own father. He doesn’t forget the people who gave him the time of day when he was an unknown assistant coach, or even a relative unknown as a new head coach at VCU, at least before 2012.

And you just know it had to be hard to tell his team he is leaving. This is a guy who takes very seriously the role a coach can play in the lives of young men. He doesn’t just talk about this; he’s really in tune with his players, and that’s been no small part of his success.

He’s also consistent. Smart has always been understated, and that remains the case now. He has a big name, of course, but that hasn’t changed him. Fundamentally, he’s the same person he was when he was a go-getter assistant coach.

Now we can look forward to off-seasons where there are other people whose name is quickly mentioned for head coaching vacancies. Smart has proven himself at VCU, and found the job worth leaving there for. He now tries to do at Texas something similar to what he did at VCU.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

College Basketball Tonight – March 19, 2018

March 20, 2018 by

We discuss the wild early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, joined by special guest Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal for one segment. In addition, we touch on coaching news and other issues surrounding the college game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 17, 2018

March 17, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, there is one main story to focus on: history being made in Charlotte and its aftermath. But we also talk about tough times for the Pac-12 and a key member school, plus an added challenge ahead at Pittsburgh.

College Basketball Tonight – March 11, 2018

March 12, 2018 by

College Basketball Tonight returns with a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament bracket, and in the second segment Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian joins us.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 10, 2018

March 10, 2018 by

As Championship Week nears its climax on the big Saturday, we look at a pair of semifinals and a lot of bubble teams that may be sweating it out on Sunday.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 8, 2018

March 8, 2018 by

As Championship Week heats up, we talk about bubble teams who may or may not want to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament, as well as a couple of mid-majors whose conference championship game was played earlier in the week.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.