SMART DECISION: Shaka to stay with VCU Rams

Posted at 1:52 PM, Mar 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-21 15:49:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Shaka Smart will stay in Richmond and remain head basketball coach of the VCU Rams. VCU released a statement to confirm Smart’s decision Wednesday afternoon.

“Coach Smart recognizes — as do the rest of the university community, alumni and fans — that VCU is the place to be right now,” said VCU President Michael Rao in the statement. “He continues to demonstrate his commitment to VCU and its pursuit of excellence athletically and academically.

“Under his leadership, the success of the VCU basketball program and our scholar athletes raises the bar for national research universities and intercollegiate athletics,” Rao said.

In the statement, Smart said he is not pursuing any coaching offers.

“I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university’s leadership — President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors – as well as our phenomenal fans,” Smart said. “There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.”

VCU athletic director Norwood Teague said Smart has agreed in principle to some changes in his current contract. Teague said some of those contract details are still being finalized.

“The agreement reflects Coach Smart’s continued focus on his players, coaches, the men’s basketball program and its contributions to a great university,” Teague said.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported Wednesday afternoon that Smart has told Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas that he will stay with VCU.

Reporter Herb Gould wrote that Smart is “believed to have turned down an offer of at least $2.5 million a year to succeed Bruce Weber, who was fired after nine years in Champaign.”

VCU hired Smart as head coach in 2009 when Anthony Grant left the Rams, after three seasons, and accepted a head coaching job at the University of Alabama.

Smart, just 31 years old at the time, had previously served as an assistant coach at University of Florida, Clemson University and Akron.

“Through the vetting process of hiring someone to lead our program, we spoke with some of the nation’s top head and assistant coaches, men who came highly recommended from the biggest names in college basketball,” said VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague. “Shaka stood out amongst all of them.”

In his first year at VCU, Smart lead the Rams to 27 wins and the College Basketball Invitational title.

The following year Smart and VCU made history winning five games in the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Final Four as an 11 seed.

During that run the Rams defeated schools from larger basketball conferences such as Southern California (Pac-10), Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big 10), Florida State (ACC) and Kansas (Big 12).
The Rams’ run ended in the Final Four in Houston, Texas with a 70-62 loss to Butler.

In 2012, the Rams won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Richmond, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
In the 2012 NCAA tournament, the Rams beat the 5-seed Wichita State Shockers.
Two days later the Rams, a 12-seed, lost to 4-seed Indiana University 63-61.

During his three years at VCU, Smart has a record of 84-27, winning just over 75 percent.