Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Follow us on Twitter! @OS_Report
It is pretty safe to say that almost every school in the country has at least a few alumni that they are proud to call their own. As I have mentioned before, I broadcast a number of sporting events for Kenyon College out of Gambier, Ohio and I am up to speed with most of the happenings around campus. As I was speaking with a few students before a baseball game last weekend about the NCAA Tournament, I was informed that former Kenyon College basketball star and Virginia Commonwealth head men's basketball coach, Shaka Smart, would most likely be accepting the head coaching job at the University of Texas in the coming days. Any time you hear a rumor, you take it for what it's worth, but after I received the news late Thursday night, it was official that the once Kenyon Lord was finally a Texas Longhorn.
For those of you that don't follow college basketball, like Geno Auriemma, Shaka Smart has been one of most successful and sought after coaches in the college game over the last 5 years. After working as an assistant at Akron, Clemson and Florida, Smart earned his first head coaching opportunity with the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams back in 2009. During his six seasons at the helm of VCU, Smart compiled a record of 163-56; a Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament championship, an Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship, five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances and most memorably a miraculous run at the Final Four back in 2011.
Ever since 2011, Smart has been a household name and has repeatedly turned down coaching jobs at schools like Illinois and North Carolina State to stay at VCU. I can’t blame Shaka for staying at VCU, because when you succeed at a small school like that, you want to be the guy that keeps them on the map. Following successful VCU coaches like Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, Shaka has become the most memorable of them all in Richmond, but when a program like Texas comes calling, you never turn it down.
Once a legitimate college basketball contender in the mid-2000’s, the Texas Longhorns under Rick Barnes were no longer that anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Barnes enjoyed much success during his 17 seasons in Austin, but only getting out of the tournament’s first weekend once out of the last four years at a school that is supposed to compete with Kansas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 consistently just won’t cut it anymore. The Longhorns needed a fresh face at the reins, and Smart is the perfect fit.
Embracing his “havoc” defensive style with full court presses and creating turnovers at VCU, the Rams led the nation in steals per possession in every season since 2011. That style of play will be a huge shot in the arm for a school like Texas who has seemed to lose their basketball identity. Also, no offense to Virginia Commonwealth and the Atlantic 10 Conference, but it is a lot easier to recruit McDonald’s All-Americans to a school like Texas in one of the famous “Power Five” Conferences. In a sport where recruiting is king, you want the biggest brand as possible and there is no bigger brand in college athletics then the Texas Longhorns.
No matter the career choice, you are always looking to move up the ladder. When it comes to college athletics, Shaka Smart enjoyed a ton of success at Virginia Commonwealth and even though he kept the standard high, Texas was his chance to climb the ladder of coaching greatness and as a competitor, he couldn’t turn it down.