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It’s now time to see what program tries to pry Shaka Smart from VCU

Mar 23, 2013, 4:14 PM EDT

VCU Rams head coach Smart talks with guard Johnson during the final seconds of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game against Michigan in Auburn Hills

On Saturday afternoon, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Michigan, meaning that his offseason has officially begun.

And what’s an offseason for Shaka Smart with all kinds of speculation about when he’ll be leaving VCU and where he’ll be headed.

In 2011, it was NC State that came calling and got shot down. In 2012, it was Illinois that courted Shaka, and again, he turned down their higher profile conference and a pay raise.

So who will it be this year?

USC currently has an opening, although many expect that gig to end up in the hands of Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. It’s also tough to imagine Smart turning down NC State and Illinois only to settle for the second most prestigious program in Southern California.

What about UCLA? The same folks predicting Dixon to USC are guessing that Ben Howland will be out as Bruins head coach, and it’s only every so often that the head coaching position at one of the Blue Bloods comes open. Will that be enough to lure Shaka away from VCU’s Richmond campus?

I don’t know. No one does. I don’t even think that Shaka has thought about at this point, to be honest with you. He’s been focused on the whole “VCU in the NCAA tournament” thing.

But the bottom-line is this: it’s going to take a lot more than a pay-raise to get him. There’s going to have to be more at stake than the simple promise of playing in a bigger conference. Because Shaka makes plenty of money where he is. He’s a legend at VCU. He brought Havoc to the program. He’s got as much job security with the Rams as any person in any profession in the country. His day-to-day stress isn’t worrying about whether or not a booster is going to try to force him out; it’s whether he’ll be done watching tape and recruiting to get home in time to tuck his daughter into bed.

UCLA had seven head coaches in the 28 years before Ben Howland was hired, and he may get fired despite winning the Pac-12 regular season and taking the Bruins to the Final Four three times in his tenure.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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