It’s been a satisfying and bittersweet couple of days for Texas Longhorns men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart. He not only captured his 200th career win over his former team, but before doing it he got a standing ovation from the VCU student body. To top it off, Texas is now 6-2 after winning 11 games all of last season.
Not only a big road win for the team tonight, but additional congrats to Coach Smart on earning his 200th career victory #TexasFamily
When Smart left VCU, after building the program into a national college hoops power, it was an inevitable move for a guy who was highly sought after by the nation’s elite programs.
At VCU, he won nearly 75 percent (163-56) of his games and had a 7-5 record in March Madness games. In 2011, he took the Rams on a Cinderella run to the Final Four and he rose to stardom, but remained loyal to his university, turning down jobs at UCLA, Marquette and Wake Forest before Texas lured him with a deal that pays him over $3 million a year.
Don't get it twisted. Shaka's departure was comparable to when Peyton Manning left Indianapolis. A city was crushed.
Smart made the postseason in each of his six seasons at VCU and his first season with Texas, before falling to 11-22 in 2016-17 and experiencing his first losing situation as a coach. Despite the grumblings in Longhorn country that Smart should suffer the same fate as Charlie Strong, it didn’t take long for Smart to turn things around as Texas is leading the Big 12 conference. Smart returned to VCU and he was greeted with all of the love that he once experienced daily as he elevated the school to national prominence.
Shaka Smart returns to the Siegel Center as Texas faces VCU! https://t.co/dFtzAiMUwP
Then his Texas squad defeated the VCU Rams 71-67.
In an interview last week with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Smart reflected on what he built at VCU.
"I always told our guys and our staff during our time at VCU, don't take this for granted," Smart told the newspaper. "Don't take for granted the fact that you get to play in front of a sellout crowd, the fact that we have fans that are so unbelievably supportive. There was a couple blizzards that we had where we were worried that the fans wouldn't be able to make it, but it was still a sellout."
Texas' trip to Richmond was a condition of Smart's contract with the Longhorns, per the Times-Dispatch. The Rams are now coached Mike Rhoades, who was one of Smart's former VCU assistants.
Uploaded by Big 12 Digital Network on 2017-12-06.
Smart’s departure has worked out for both sides involved. He obviously left his replacement Will Wade in good shape with recruiting because VCU didn’t miss a beat in Smart’s absence, winning 51 games and making the NCAA tourney every season so far.
Texas' rebound season is indicative of Smart’s rapid development as a coach for a big-time program with immense pressures. Smart is clearing out the players he inherited and building his own winning culture. Give him some time and a few more blue chip recruits and Smart will lift Texas back into a spotlight it hasn’t enjoyed since Kevin Durant had a cup of coffee in college.