Smart bolts VCU for Texas, Rams interviewing potential replacements
Last night VCU fans got the news they have flirted with the past five seasons: Shaka Smart is gone.
The VCU head coach was rumored to be Texas’ top choice, a rumor that proved to be true as Smart was announced as the Longhorns’ new head coach less than a week after the firing of former longtime head coach, Rick Barnes.
Texas AD Steve Patterson landed in Richmond, VA at roughly 5PM, met with Smart, then five hours later the now former Rams head coach met with his team to break the news before word officially hit the media.
Several Rams players were visibly distraught while exiting the building following the meeting.
Smart had no comment last night but issued the following statement to Ram fans this morning before flying back to Austin with his family and Patterson:
“It has been an extraordinary honor to be your head coach for the past six years. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to build on the tradition of VCU Basketball. I want to express my deep gratitude for all VCU players, past and present, our coaching staff and all the people that have worked tirelessly to support our program,” Smart said. “The leadership of President Michael Rao and Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin has been instrumental in VCU Basketball’s tremendous growth. I also want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the VCU students, alumni, the Peppas and our phenomenal fans that make the Siegel Center such an unbelievable place to play and coach. The ascendance of the VCU program has been and will continue to be about a special group of people both within and outside the immediate team that make VCU Basketball extremely unique. This program’s future is extremely bright. The best is yet to come.”
McLaughlin, who was at the Final 4 in Indianapolis when the news broke, later added that VCU would immediately begin interviewing possible replacements but would not use a search firm to do so.
“Our timeline will be quick but thorough. We want someone who will continue our success”, McLaughlin said in a Friday afternoon teleconfernece. “Style of play is important.”
Potential replacements already being discussed are recent Shaka Smart assistants turned head coaches, Mike Morrell (Rice) and Will Wade (UT Chattanooga), both of whom were key in the development of Shaka Smart’s pressing “havoc” defense.
Other names being floated included recent Shaka Smart assistant, Jeremy Ballard, as well as former Rhode Island assistant and current Buffalo head coach, Bobby Hurley.