Thursday morning 32-year-old Wisconsin native Shaka Smart was introduced to Richmond’s press corps and VCU basketball fans at an open-to-the-public affair in the Siegel Center. In speaking of the man he had just hired to coach the men’s basketball team, Athletic Director Norwood Teague told those gathered, “We have landed an absolute superstar!” Smart most recently […]
Thursday morning 32-year-old Wisconsin native Shaka Smart was introduced to Richmond’s press corps and VCU basketball fans at an open-to-the-public affair in the Siegel Center. In speaking of the man he had just hired to coach the men’s basketball team, Athletic Director Norwood Teague told those gathered, “We have landed an absolute superstar!”
Smart most recently served as an assistant to Florida’s celebrated head coach, Billy Donovan, for one year. Prior to that Smart was an assistant coach at four other stops, including two years on Clemson’s bench beside Oliver Purnell.
Smart played his college basketball at Kenyon College, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with a degree in history. Teague mentioned that Smart had been accepted by both Harvard and Yale. Smart was captain of his basketball team at Kenyon for three years and still holds the records there for single season and career assists.
The new coach made a few remarks that seemed to go over well. He spoke of wreaking “havoc” on opponents with the Rams defense. He said he will coach his players to have a “clear head and the right intentions.”
VCU President Eugene Trani was all smiles. He obviously felt good about the man the university has brought in to replace Anthony Grant, who coached the Rams to a 76-25 mark and two NCAA bids in three seasons on West Broad Street, before accepting an offer to coach at Alabama.
In some sense, Smart is Trani’s parting gift. (Readers should have all the fun with the previous sentence they want.)
Teague and Smart both mentioned the value of the VCU SportsCenter’s Villa 7 Consortium — which has assembled many of the most promising young assistant coaches at a national conference in recent summers — in bringing them to this point.
The inset below is from a VCU web site’s page about that program:
The Consortium is a continuation of a project created by the VCU SportsCenter in July of 2004. Held in Las Vegas, at the Mirage in the Villa 7 suite, the staff hosted an event to assist in the creation of networking opportunities between assistant coaches and athletic directors. The gathering generated an exchange of information and forged new professional relationships.
Click here to read the whole page and better understand the role this innovation has played in building the VCU program.
Smart seemed well aware of the expectations that were present in the room. Following the spectacular success of Grant and Jeff Capel (now head coach at Oklahoma) won’t be easy. But in hiring Smart VCU has established that it has a distinctive style. It brings in young coaches that are on their way up. They might not stay more than three or four years, but the ride will be worth it.
In other words, the sleepy old days of Sonny Smith and Mack McCarthy are gone … long gone.
Not to waste any time, Smart reached out to high school players in the metro area. He said, more or less, he would be recruiting the best of them as soon as the press conference ended.
– Word and photos by F.T. Rea