According to the Chicago Sun-Times, VCU head coach Shaka Smart has turned down Illinois’ offer to become its men’s basketball coach. Smart had been Illinois’ top choice to replace the recently fired Bruce Weber, but multiple anonymous sources told the paper that the 34-year-old coach informed the school’s athletic director Mike Thomas of his decision on Wednesday.
VCU then announced later in the day that Smart had decided to remain at the school next season, and he is not pursuing any other offers.
Smart issued the following statement:
“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. There are great things to accomplish at VCU, and I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.”
Smart did the same thing last year when N.C. State went after him hard. Apparently he is comfortable at VCU and doesn’t care about moving to a bigger school in a power conference.
This seems to be becoming a trend among young, talented coaches. Butler’s Brad Stevens is another guy who has turned down numerous opportunities to move on in order to stay at his current job.
Frankly, it makes sense. If you’re comfortable at a school and are making good money (Smart is hauling in roughly $1.2 million a year), why run away just because another job offers more exposure? Smart is a good enough coach to get kids to play for him at VCU and will remain popular thanks to his personality and the way his team plays.
In three years as the head coach at VCU, Smart has compiled a record of 84-27, and of course boasts a Final Four run from last season. He will be able to move on whenever he wants, so there is no reason to bolt at the first opportunity.
We salute Smart’s loyalty. It’s great to see a guy stick with the school that first gave him a chance at being a head coach.