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. Memphis grabs a commitment from a 2016 guard

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner AP

    Memphis found a 2016 guard to join center Nick Marshall in the recruiting class.

  2. Report: SMU big man has work to do to be eligible for season

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Markus Kennedy AP

    SMU could be in trouble if a second-team all-league pick is ruled ineligible.

  3. Washington adds two forwards in 2015 class

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Indian Hills Community College Indian Hills Community College

    Lorenzo Romar now has a six-man recruiting class for 2015.

  4. Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners

    Oct 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Buddy Hield (AP Photo) Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

    Oklahoma has a chance to be the second-best team in the Big 12, especially if a key player receives a waiver.

  5. St. Joseph’s loses another front court piece for the 2014-15 season

    Oct 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Phil Martelli AP

    The Hawks will have a thin front court this season.

  6. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Which new coaching hires will succeed?

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Steve Wojciechowski AP

    Five new hires that should thrive, and five who may end up struggling.

  7. Report: Former Oklahoma State guard leaves his junior college

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT

    Stevie Clark, Jevon Taylor AP

    Stevie Clark was dismissed from Oklahoma State after a pair of bizarre incidents involving the police.

  8. Maryland lands commitment from junior college point guard

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    Mark Turgeon

    Jaylen Brantley is Maryland’s first commitment in the class.

  9. No longer supplementary pieces, two Texans will lead the way at Weber State

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Randy Rahe AP

    After riding the coattails of a pair of Californians, Weber State’s focus on recruiting the state of Texas will pay off this season.

  10. Former NBA guard says Emmanuel Mudiay ‘handled himself well’ in first game in China

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

    unnamed-1

    Mudiay has now played two preseason games as a professional.

  11. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Weber State won’t lack for challengers in Big Sky

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Weber State's Joel Bolomboy (AP Photo) AP

    Weber State will be the preseason favorites, but Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington will lead a group of challengers capable of pushing the reigning champs.

  12. Highlights from San Francisco’s ‘Hilltop Hoopsfest’ event (VIDEO)

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Rex Walters AP

    Junior forward Mark Tollefsen may be one of the best dunkers in America.

  13. Louisville takes next step in season preparations with their annual Red-White Scrimmage

    Oct 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

    Chris Jones, Dillon Avare Chris Jones, Dillon Avare

    Chris Jones’ three-pointer in the final seconds gave the White team a 75-72 win over the Red.

  14. Fractured foot to sideline Maryland forward 4-6 weeks

    Oct 19, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT

    Evan Smotrycz AP

    Evan Smotrycz was re-evaluated Saturday after suffering the injury at the end of practice Friday.

  15. Durand Johnson returns in Pittsburgh’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage

    Oct 19, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT

    Durand Johnson, Zach Gordon Durand Johnson, Zach Gordon

    Johnson last played in live action on January 11, when he suffered a torn ACL in the Panthers’ loss to Virginia.

  16. 6-foot-10 center verbally commits to Colorado State

    Oct 19, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    Larry Eustachy Larry Eustachy

    With three of their five seniors being front court players, Colorado State needs to add depth ahead of the 2015-16 season. Sunday’s commitment will help in this area.

  17. Led by senior forward Alan Williams, UCSB capable of earning first NCAA tournament bid since 2011

    Oct 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    UCSB's Alan Williams (AP Photo) AP

    Alan Williams gets most of the attention nationally, but he won’t be alone as the Gauchos look to rebound from last year’s disappointing finish.