Not going anywherePhoto: US Presswire
While the new hotness in terms of “young coaches” might be Andy Enfield (who isn’t even THAT young anymore in today’s NCAA) and his Dunk City boys, today was another reminder of just how sizzling the stock of Shaka Smart remains.
Smart, who propelled the previously little-heralded Commodores of Virginia Commonwealth University to the 2011 Fina Four, continues to experience a meteoric rise. It’s worth noting that he’s still only 35 years old and among the 10 youngest coaches in all of NCAA D1 basketball (no doubt falling further down the list in part due to his own compelling case study). News out of Richmond yesterday is that Smart has received a raise from VCU taking his salary from $1.2M/year to $1.5M.
The new contract goes through 2023 and is the second notable increase in the last three seasons. Once again, it was Smart’s desirability among some of the nation’s biggest programs that played a role in spurring action from VCU.
This post, though, is not about debating whether Smart should stay at VCU or go. Although we can’t deny that his decision to remain “loyal” to the program further endears him to us. Instead, this is about again recognizing how amazing this brief ride has been. And, more specifically, putting into context what’s been “left on the table.”
Think about it? North Carolina State. Illinois. UCLA. Minnesota. All have been linked to Smart during his only four seasons as a FIRST-TIME HEAD COACH AT VCU. Big programs. Huge resources. Much larger national stages. And these are only the teams that were fairly forthright in their apparent interest. The list is likely longer and would be a veritable dream for most aspiring young coaches. Smart has been on each of their radars – if not directly in their crosshairs – at age 35.
The why? It’s there for everyone to see. Smart’s record is an eye-opening 111-36. He led the Commodores to a 27-9 mark and a postseason tournament championship (albeit, the CBI) in his inaugural season, his first as head coach at any level. He has since made three straight NCAA tournament appearances. Each of those trips to the Big Dance has netted at least one win with, of course, the historic 2011 Final Four run being the feather in the cap. Not to mention a step up into the A-10 this season.
Can Smart keep it up at VCU? Your guess is as good as mine, but the early evidence suggests he can. Some extra dough thrown at his staff, facilities and other program “amenities” surely won’t hurt its prospects. Commodores fans can rest easy that they’ll have at least one more season to see if Smart’s success continue. Should VCU make another run next March, get ready to queue up the same story again. And why not? Keeping your eye on a young successful coach who’s making a smaller program a national topic of conversation is…well…smart.