Skip to content

Hanging onto Shaka Smart the key for growth of the VCU program

Jun 20, 2013, 12:47 PM EDT

shakasmart Reuters

Mark Few didn’t put Gonzaga on the map.

That award probably belongs to Dan Monson, who led the Zags to within a game of the Final Four in 1999 before leaving for Minnesota and opening the door for Few to take the program over. If it wasn’t Monson, it was probably John Stockton, who remains by far the most famous hoopster to come out of the program.

What Few did, however, was arguably more impressive. He turned Gonzaga from a flash-in-the-pan Cinderella story into one of the nation’s strongest basketball programs despite playing in the tiny West Coast Conference. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament in each of Few’s 14 seasons at the helm, winning 12 WCC regular season titles and 10 tournament titles along the way.

The Zags are now a powerhouse. Spokane is a college hoops hotbed.

The same can be said for Brad Stevens and Butler. The Bulldogs had more of a basketball tradition when Stevens took over than Gonzaga did when Few took over — Barry Collier, Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter all turned postseason trips into high major jobs — but Butler has reached a different level under Stevens. They made back-to-back national title games. They compete for some of the best recruits in the country. Butler’s ascended to the Big East and is arguably one of the top 20 programs in America.

The key to that success, for both Gonzaga and Butler, can be tied to keeping the right coach in place.

Stevens and Few both could have left for higher profile jobs and decided to stay.

That’s exactly what VCU is hoping is in the cards with their hotshot young head coach Shaka Smart. And the good news for Rams fans is that it sounds like Smart is sticking around for the long haul:

“I’ve always said, I think that there is an overly simplistic view of when people leave and go somewhere else. They’re all about being greedy and all about money, and all about going to the highest level. On the flip side, if someone stays, they’re the most loyal person in the world,” he said.

“I’m the same as you or anyone else in that I want to work at a place where I really enjoy it,” he said, a view he’s uttered many times. “I want to take care of my family just like everyone else does. I want to work with people that are fun to be around. I’m just fortunate that I have that at VCU.”

It’s not just about the money for Smart, although getting a raise and a seven-figure payday for being good at his job certainly doesn’t hurt.

He likes his job. He likes the people he works with and the kids he coaches. He likes where he lives. His family is happy.

More importantly, he knows that he doesn’t need to take a bigger job with more expectations to be able to have a nationally relevant program. He’s made the Final Four. His program moved into the Atlantic 10 and may still snag an invite into the new Big East. He’s consistently in the top 25. He can recruit against and land kids that are pursued by bigger programs.

Why would he bother leaving?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Cheick Diallo leads East to McDonald’s All-American Game victory

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Getty Images Getty Images

    Diallo, who’s still considering five schools, led the way with 18 points and ten rebounds.

  2. Gregg Marshall to remain at Wichita State, won’t visit Alabama

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Reports surfaced earlier Wednesday that Marshall would visit Alabama on Friday.

  3. 6-foot-4 shooting guard becomes South Carolina’s fourth 2015 commitment

    Apr 1, 2015, 8:49 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    With Ty Johnson being the lone player out of eligibility, South Carolina may have some other moves in minds when it comes to getting down to the 13 scholarship limit.

  4. Arizona sophomore forward denies reports that he’s turning pro

    Apr 1, 2015, 7:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is projected to be a first round pick, but he stated that he still needs to talk with his mother and Arizona head coach Sean Miller before making a decision.

  5. Oklahoma sophomore guard Frank Booker to transfer

    Apr 1, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Booker played just 14.3 minutes per game this season, with the Sooners relying on the triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard on the perimeter.

  6. Rhode Island, head coach Dan Hurley agree to contract restructuring, extension

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hurley led the Rams to a 23-10 record this season, and with the amount of talent they’ll return Rhody should be an NCAA tournament team and a contender in the A-10.

  7. Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey announces intentions to turn pro

    Apr 1, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Harvey averaged 23.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the Big Sky champion Eagles.

  8. Eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans give a recruiting update

    Apr 1, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram remain two of eight uncommitted All-Americans (adidas) Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram remain two of eight uncommitted All-Americans (adidas)

    With eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans playing in Wednesday night’s game, there are still plenty of decisions to be made going forward.

  9. Maryland point guard Melo Trimble to return for sophomore season

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Trimble’s decision to return is a big boost, and it ensures that Maryland will be a Big Ten contender next season.

  10. Liberty re-hires former head coach Ritchie McKay

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    ACC Men's Basketball Tournament Semifinal Round Game Virginia Cavaliers vs Pittsburgh Panthers Getty Images

    Liberty re-hired former head coach Ritchie McKay after McKay spent a stint at Virginia as associate head coach.

  11. How Duke fixed its defense in the NCAA tournament

    Apr 1, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    What kinds of changes has Duke made to improve defensively during a strong NCAA tournament run?

  12. Kansas loses freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. to 2015 NBA Draft

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Kelly Oubre Jr. will leave Kansas for the NBA Draft.

  13. Nebraska guard Tarin Smith to transfer

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska is losing another player from the roster.

  14. Ohio State lands a top 50 Class of 2016 commitment

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Harrison Heath, Derek Funderburk AP

    Ohio State landed an impact forward in the 2016 class on Wednesday.

  15. Wisconsin stops selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirt in campus bookstore over potential NCAA violation

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Wisconsin stopped selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirts at a campus bookstore.

  16. Kevin Ollie, UConn coaching staff won’t attend Final Four in Indianapolis over state travel ban

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Kevin Ollie and UConn will stay away from the Final Four in Indianapolis as the state of Connecticut has banned state-funded travel to the state.

  17. San Diego hires New Mexico assistant Lamont Smith as new head coach

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Lamont Smith, right, is San Diego's new head coach (Getty Images) Getty Images

    San Diego turned to a former player to lead the basketball program.