After years of trying, one major university finally pried Shaka Smart away from VCU.
MSN Sports is reporting that Smart, who has been the head basketball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia for the past six years, has decided to become the next head coach at the University of Texas. USA Today first reported the change, and ESPN has confirmed Smart’s move.
Smart, 37, led the VCU Rams to a 163-56 record and five consecutive trips to the NCAA Basketball tournament, including a trip to the Final Four in 2011. Smart replaces Rick Barnes, who was relieved of duty after 17 years with the Longhorns. Barnes was 402-180 while with the Longhorns, and took the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament in 16 of the 17 years Barnes coached in Texas. Barnes is now the new head coach at the University of Tennessee.
Smart and the seventh-seeded Rams also bowed out of the NCAA tournament this year in the round of 64, losing to the 10th seeded Ohio State Buckeyes in overtime, 75-72.
Texas had been chosen by many pundits and fans as having a good chance of getting to the Final Four this year. However, numerous injuries and inconsistent play cost the Longhorns a chance at the Big 12 championship and their automatic bid. The Longhorns did get invited to the tournament as an 11th seed, but were bounced from the tournament by sixth-seeded Butler in the round of 64, 56-48.
According to the Bleacher Report, Smart has informed his players at VCU that he has accepted the Texas job. Smart stayed at the Seigel Center for at least four hours after meeting with the team. During that time, Smart offered 2016 recruit Bruce Brown a scholarship.
Smart has led the Rams to one CAA Conference championship and one Atlantic 10 championship since taking over at VCU in 2009.
Texas is in need of some magic like that. The last time Texas made it to the Sweet Sixteen was 2008, the same year the Longhorns won the last of their three regular season Big 12 titles. Barnes never won a Big 12 tournament. Barnes did lead them to the Final Four and Elite Eight twice.
Smart will surround himself with smart, defensive-minded players who excel at pressing and ball-handling. Smart likes his teams to play fast, something Texas was wont to do in the past few years.
Smart brings plenty of experience, recruiting with limited resources and building winning basketball teams. Texas has near-unlimited resources, so Smart will be able to focus on Texas’ main weakness, recruiting talent within the state of Texas. Texas is expecting an immediate return on their investment in Smart, and Smart has the drive and knowledge to meet those expectations.
[Image courtesy of longpangme.com]