Havoc in Austin: The Shaka Smart Era

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It’s official. This past weekend, Texans all over the country were rejoicing in light of the news that VCU coach Shaka Smart is headed to Austin to become the next head basketball coach at the University of Texas. I know this because I’m a Texan and I’m rejoicing. Also my text alerts from locals in Austin haven’t stopped pinging since the rumors started last weekend.

It’s nothing personal, Rick Barnes, but as fans we weren’t able to take much ownership of stats like our “high number of NCAA tournament appearances” [16 out of 17 years under Barnes] because we saw the games and we knew we didn’t deserve them based on the performances. There’s nothing like feeling like you’re getting away with NCAA bids you haven’t earned and trying to defend it in public.

Apparently UT Athletics Director Steve Patterson felt it was time to shake things up, too. Smart has been tough to lure away from VCU despite past poaching attempts but Patterson knew Texas was on his short list.

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It isn’t that surprising or “mysterious” (frankly, I don’t know why the Internet is so shocked at the move) to discover that Smart has strategic precision and foresight on and off the court. He wasn’t going to move his family for anything less than the prospect of having it all: legacy, longevity and resources. This trifecta, plus timing, plus the fact that the state of Texas boasts some of the best recruiting real estate in the country, along with the Longhorns having the largest athletic budget of any school around, must have done the trick.

Whatever the next chapter is for the Longhorns, it’s bound to be thrilling. Smart is known for being one of the hottest young coaches in the sport (possibly the hottest this weekend in Indianapolis) because his presence guarantees his school and the surrounding community a kinetic combination of wins, on the ball pressure and heart. It’s great basketball and great theater – what more could you ask for?

To be clear, I’m not expecting Final Four repeats and National Championship trophies to happen overnight. No one who knows the game well is expecting that. Blending two coaching systems and two sets of recruits is no small task. We’re just hoping he starts off strong and sticks around for the next 30 years.

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If you’re thinking of making a move to Austin, I’d do it quick. Property taxes are high enough, and Shaka Smart is coming.

-written by A.M. Boidock-

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