Shaka Smart leaves VCU for the University of Texas

Alonzo Small
Sports Editor

Photo by Audry Dubon.

On Friday, April 3, the Shaka Smart era at VCU officially ended when the former head coach was formally introduced as the new the University of Texas Longhorns head coach.

“To me, it was a no-brainer,” said Smart, 37, who led the Rams to 26 or more victories in each of his six season at VCU, a NCAA Final Four appearance in 2011 and to VCU’s first Atlantic 10 conference championship. “I don’t want to take away from any other program, but there is only one University of Texas. There is unbelievable potential here.”

Smart had previously turned down the likes of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Wake Forest University, University of Maryland, Marquette University and North Carolina State University.

The hire makes Smart the first African-American coach in the history of Texas programs.

Smart agreed in principle to become the Longhorns new men’s basketball head coach on Thursday night, April 2. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said in the introductory press conference he did not interview any other candidates, confirming reports that Texas “zeroed in” on Smart after firing former head coach Rick Barnes. Thursday afternoon, Patterson flew to Richmond to meet with Smart. Sometime Thursday a deal was reached that will reportedly see Smart make $3 million a year over seven years, according to ESPN.

According to SportsIllustrated.com, VCU offered Smart a 55 percent pay raise, increasing his annual salary to $2.8 million, $1 million more than he was already making.

The offer was not enough to entice Smart to stay as he informed his players and coaches Thursday evening that he decided to take the job.

“Saying goodbye to those guys, you never are prepared for that,” Smart said on ESPN’s Sportscenter. “It was a hard night. It was a very emotional time.”

While no players have commented on the move, Smart offered departing words to the VCU faithful via press release before being introduced as Texas’ new head coach via press release on April 3.

“It has been an extraordinary honor to be your head coach for the past six years,” Smart said. “I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to build on the tradition of VCU basketball. I want to express my deep gratitude for all VCU players, past and present, our coaching staff and all the people that have worked tirelessly to support our program.”

Smart also thanked VCU President Michael Rao and athletic director Ed McLaughlin for helping build the program into what it has become today, adding his gratitude to all those who supported him the past six years.

“I also want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the VCU students, alumni, the Peppas and our phenomenal fans that make the Siegel Center such an unbelievable place to play and coach. The ascendance of the VCU program has been and will continue to be about a special group of people both within and outside the immediate team that make VCU basketball extremely unique. This program’s future is extremely bright. The best is yet to come.”

Smart leaves VCU with a 163-56 (.744) record, appearing in five straight NCAA tournaments. His 163 victories are the second-most by any Division I head coach in the first six years of their career.

McLaughlin will now begin the process of finding the right candidate to replace a man that helped raise the program to prominence. McLaughlin also thanked Smart for his contributions to VCU.

“We will remember Shaka’s success on the court and with our student-athletes forever, but more importantly, he has helped to create a level of sustainable success on an elite level nationally,” McLaughlin said. “I speak for our entire department in thanking him and his staff for everything they have done for our student-athletes and VCU. We wish him well in Austin.”

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