Over the past two seasons, it’s become increasingly clear that loyalty is a top priority for VCU basketball coach Shaka Smart.
After receiving offers to take his “havoc” defensive schemes elsewhere both last offseason and now in 2013, Smart has officially decided that he would like to remain in Richmond, Va. for the duration of his career. Despite a disappointing ending to an otherwise terrific 2012-2013 season, the Wisconsin native is currently finalizing a deal that will keep him at VCU until the conclusion of 2023.
Smart has already exhibited tremendous success at Virginia Commonwealth so far in his 5-year tenure, leading the Rams to three NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four appearance in 2011 as a member of the “First Four,” and a No. 5 seed in this season’s big dance. After the team secured a commendable 12 wins in the hard-nosed Atlantic 10 conference during the regular season, Smart and co. were projected to go deep into the national tournament, with ESPN’s Jay Bilas even chalking in the team to reach his Final Four in Atlanta. However, following a 46-point lopsided victory over the No. 12 Akron Zips in the Round of 64, the Rams’ run would come to a shocking end as Big 10 great Michigan was able to break the full-court press and virtually cruise to a Sweet 16 birth, 78-53, last Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Nevertheless, with the firings of Ben Howland and Tubby Williams at UCLA and Minnesota, respectively, Smart’s name quickly began to sift to the top of head coach candidate piles at both schools. Recently, the 35-year-old has become known to recruit relative unknown yet immensely athletic players to take part in his defense-first system, gaining credibility across the nation with every win. However, after spurning Illinois last year, it looks like Smart will do the same to these Pac-12 and Big 10 perennial powerhouses to keep building VCU into one of the premier programs in all of college basketball. Notably, Milwaukee Bucks’ center Larry Sanders played under Smart before being drafted in 2010, now a force for the NBA franchise and a player that analytics nerds love to drool over for his impeccable defensive skills and blocking capabilities.
With the departures of Butler and Xavier to the newly formed “Catholic 7″ conference in 2013-2014, Smart and the Rams will look to compete with the St. Louis Billikens for the top spot in the A-10 this coming season.