It seems like just yesterday Shaka Smart was one of the most coveted coach in the NCAA. Two years ago Smart was coming off his fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, spotlighted by a Final Four appearance in the 2010-11’ season. Smart transformed a little mid-major school, Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) into a powerhouse. In 2015 The University of Texas threw Smart a major contract and he was out of Virginia. Now entering his third season with the Longhorns, Smart has a below .500 record. Many of the Texas alum are calling for his job, and having people question if Shaka can.
The Good Ol’ Days | VCU Rams
During Smarts tenure at VCU, he had an amazing record of 163-56. He won at least 26 games in all six of his seasons in Richmond. At the time, the Rams were frequently in the top 25 rankings and made five consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. Smart has been labeled as a “players coach”; all of his former and current players speak highly of him. Smart was coveted by many Power 5 Schools (UCLA, Maryland, etc.), he had the option to stay at VCU or test the waters at a bigger school. The University of Texas caught Smart’s eye by throwing a fat contract at him in 2015: Click here for the HUGE contract details.
Once Smart left, many thought that VCU would fall apart and drift back into obscurity. However, his replacement, Will Wade, now LSU head coach, led VCU to a 48-17 record in a two year span. VCU has a new head coach, Mike Rhoades, who was an assistant to Shaka back when he was at VCU. He led VCU to a 25-11 season and made the NCAA tournament this past season. It’s been three years since Shaka left VCU, and the current success it’s had could have you wonder if it was the chicken or the egg.
Tough Trekking | Texas Longhorns
Entering his third year in Austin, Shaka Smart has a shaky record of 31-35. He had a respectable first year going 21-13 and making it to the NCAA Tournament. He brought recruit, Tevin Mack, who de-committed from VCU to follow Shaka to Texas. However, Shaka has had to suspend his leading scorer multiple times. This lead to Mack asking for his release to transfer in late February. The masses thought Shaka could incorporate his trade mark “HAVOC” defense to the Big12, but after enduring a horrendous season last year at 11-22, Longhorn fans are calling for his job.
Longhorns suffered an out of conference loss to in-state little brother UT-Arlington, and a home loss to Kent State. That has a lot of sports writers questioning if Shaka Smart was the right choice for Texas. Smart has recently made some coaching changes in hopes to bring the Longhorns from the depths of mediocracy.
Shaka brought in a 5-star recruit Jarrett Allen in 2016 in hopes to boost the Texas platform. It didn’t work. Allen averaged 13 and 8, then left for the NBA. This year might be a little different, Smart brings in the number three recruit in the 2017 class, Mohamed Bamba. He has the potential to be a tenure-changer for Smart. Bamba is one of the best defensive players to come through high school basketball in several years. He can guard multiple positions, play at the top of a zone or press, and block shots at the rim.
He may very well end up like former Jarrett Allen and leave for the draft, but this proves Shaka to be a high-level recruiter. The first two years were Shaka just getting his barring. Now in year three we can judge. His first season, it was leftovers from the Rick Barnes era. His second season was a transition period despite the influx of talent. It’s now his third season, he has his players and he has guys who fit his preferred style.