RICHMOND, Va. — Shaka Smart is leaving Virginia Commonwealth to coach the Texas Longhorns.
VCU sports information director Scott Day confirmed to reporters gathered at the campus Thursday night that Smart was making the move. Smart met with VCU players earlier in the evening at the Siegel Center, the team’s home arena, and at least one player was seen crying when he left.
Smart, who has won at least 26 games in each of his six seasons at VCU, has been one of the hottest names in college coaching since leading the Rams to the Final Four in 2011. Patterson has zeroed in on bringing Smart to Texas immediately after firing former Longhorns coach Rick Barnes last weekend.
Barnes’ best years came from 2003-2008 when Texas made its first Final Four in more than 50 years and twice more reached the tournament’s final eight. Texas also earned the program’s first No. 1 ranking in the 2009-2010 season.
Smart is sure to energize Texas.
Under him, the Rams won the CBI postseason tournament in his first season. But he really became a hot coaching commodity when VCU made its monumental run in the NCAA Tournament the following year. The Rams went from being a questionable selection, barely getting a bid and playing in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, to beating five major-conference schools to reach the Final Four.
The Rams have been back in the NCAA Tournament each of the past four seasons, but were eliminated in the round of 32 in 2012 and 2013 and lost their first game in overtime each of the past two seasons.
Beyond the Final Four run, this year might have been Smart’s best coaching job at VCU.
The Rams lost Briante Weber, the leader of their “havoc” defensive style, on Jan. 31 to a knee injury, and played the last month and a half with scoring leader Treveon Graham bothered by a high left ankle sprain, sometimes even sidelined.
VCU (26-10) lost six of 10 late in the season, enduring its first three-game slide in Smart’s six seasons, before winning five in a row, including four in four days, to win the Atlantic 10 title.
Smart has led VCU to at least 26 wins in six consecutive seasons, a feat matched only by Duke. With the interest he has generated in basketball, a $25 million basketball practice facility is under construction and scheduled to be ready for use in the fall.
This article was written by Hank Kurz Jr. and Jim Vertuno from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.