Shaka Smart leaves Texas for new challenge at Marquette

Shaka Smart, the head coach for Texas men’s basketball team, spoke to Future Forum members. 2018 photo By Jay Godwin – https www.flickr.com photos lbjlibrarynow, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org

Wisconsin native led VCU & Texas to eight total NCAA trips

Shaka Smart has been named the 18th head coach of the Marquette University men’s basketball program, Vice President & Director of Athletics Bill Scholl announced on Friday.

In 12 seasons as a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth (2009-15) and Texas (2015-21), Smart guided the two programs to a total of eight NCAA Tournament appearances.  Those trips were highlighted by a run from the First Four to the Final Four by VCU in 2011.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to welcome Shaka, his wife Maya, and their daughter Zora to the Marquette and Milwaukee communities,” Scholl said.  “We undertook an exhaustive national search, during which we discussed our opening with a significant number of highly-qualified coaches.  The interest in our position was tremendous and the market certainly understands what a wonderful place Marquette is to coach college basketball.” 

“Throughout the search, one individual continued to rise to the top and that was Shaka,” Scholl added.  “I am beyond excited for our current and future student-athletes who will have the great fortune of being mentored by Shaka.  He is a great teacher of the game, while also being a great molder of young men.  And I am proud to say, he is now a Marquette Golden Eagle!”

The 43-year-old Smart owns an overall record of 272-142 (.657) and seven of his first 10 teams played in the NCAA tournament.  He posted a record of 163-56 (.744) at VCU and five trips to the NCAA.  While at Texas, the Longhorns were 109-86 (.559) and made NCAA appearances in 2016, 2018 and 2021.  Texas claimed the National Invitation Tournament title in 2019.

“I am so excited for Shaka to lead our celebrated men’s basketball program, and I look forward to supporting him for many successful seasons as a Golden Eagle,” said Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell. “Shaka will be the first person of color to lead our program, and is a true role model for our student-athletes. I’ve had several conversations with Shaka in the past few days and I know he will be a results-focused coach and recruiter, and also a strong advocate for our Catholic, Jesuit mission. What has impressed me most is that he is interested in being a leader beyond basketball. Shaka is a Wisconsin native and both he and his wife Maya want to make a positive impact on our Marquette and Milwaukee communities.”

In 2020-21, Texas finished with an overall record of 19-8, including an 11-6 mark in the Big 12 Conference.  The Longhorns were ranked as high as fourth in the country and claimed the Big 12 Championship with a win over Oklahoma State.  The team claimed the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the victory and was seeded third in the East Region.

“Maya, Zora and I are absolutely thrilled to join the Marquette family,” Smart said.  “I’m grateful to President Lovell and Bill Scholl for entrusting me with the growth and development of this storied basketball program and the student-athletes who make it so special. I am extremely excited to get to Milwaukee to begin building relationships and getting to work on the court!”

AT TEXAS (2015-21)
In year one at Texas (2015-16), Smart led the Longhorns to a 20-13 overall record (11-7, tie for fourth in Big 12 Conference). UT advanced to the NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed before falling to Northern Iowa (75-72) on a half-court shot at the buzzer. The Longhorns set a school single-season record with four regular-season wins against AP Top 10 opponents (No. 3 North Carolina, at No. 6 West Virginia, No. 10 West Virginia and No. 3 Oklahoma).

In their first full recruiting cycle in Austin, Smart and the Texas coaching staff pulled in a four-man freshman group that ranked as the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation by Scout. All four freshmen signees were ranked among the Top 100 players nationally by Scout (Jarrett Allen, No. 15; James Banks, No. 49; Andrew Jones, No. 19; Jacob Young, No. 87). 

The class was highlighted by Allen and Jones, who both competed in the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game.

During the summer of 2016, Smart served as the head coach for the USA Under 18 National Team, which competed in July at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile. Smart guided the team to a 5-0 mark and a gold medal.
The 2016-17 season was highlighted by the staff’s development of freshman Jarrett Allen, who was selected as the No. 22 pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft. Allen earned All-Big 12 Conference Third Team and Big 12 All-Newcomer Team accolades.

The staff’s second year of recruiting efforts signed a five-man freshman class that ranked as the No. 5 class in the country by Rivals. All five freshmen signees were ranked among the Top 80 players nationally by one of the three major recruiting services (Mohamed Bamba, No. 2 Rivals; Matt Coleman III, No. 29 ESPN; Jase Febres, No. 47 Scout; Jericho Sims, No. 51 Scout; Royce Hamm Jr., No. 80 ESPN). 

In the 2017-18 season, the Longhorns registered a 19-15 overall record. Despite battling several key injuries and illnesses and playing a seven-man rotation that featured four freshmen during the majority of February and March, UT advanced to the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed. 

Texas posted five wins against AP Top 25 opponents and recorded four consecutive home victories against AP Top 20 opponents to end the regular season (No. 16 TCU, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 20 West Virginia). Of UT’s 34 games on the year, a total of 20 came against teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament.

Freshman forward Mohamed Bamba earned honorable mention All-America honors by the Associated Press and claimed a spot on the John R. Wooden Award National Ballot.

A total of four Longhorns earned spots on the 2017-18 Phillips 66 All-Big 12 award teams. Bamba claimed a place on the All-Big 12 Second Team, the five-person Big 12 All-Defensive Team and the five-person Big 12 All-Newcomer Team. Freshman point guard Matt Coleman III, junior forward Dylan Osetkowski and junior guard Kerwin Roach II each earned recognition on the eight-person All-Big 12 Honorable Mention team. 

Bamba became the eighth lottery pick in the NBA Draft in UT program history, as he was selected No. 6 overall by the Orlando Magic.

In 2018, UT’s five-man freshman class ranked as the No. 8 recruiting class in the country by ESPN and 247Sports. Four signees were ranked among the Top 90 players nationally by one of the major recruiting services (Courtney Ramey, No. 34 247Sports; Gerald Liddell, No. 41 247Sports; Kamaka Hepa, No. 47 Rivals; Jaxson Hayes, No. 89 ESPN). 

During the 2018-19 season, Texas posted a 21-16 mark and won the NIT Championship. The Longhorns ran off three consecutive home wins to open the tourney against South Dakota State, Xavier and Colorado before heading to Madison Square Garden and defeating TCU and Lipscomb in the semifinals and championship game, respectively. 

A trio of UT players claimed mention on the 2018-19 Phillips 66 All-Big 12 Award teams. Hayes was named the league’s Freshman of the Year, becoming the sixth UT player to earn the accolade and first since Myles Turner in 2014-15. Hayes also garnered spots on the All-Big 12 Second Team, the Big 12 All-Defensive Team, the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team and the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. In addition, Matt Coleman III and Kerwin Roach II earned places on the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention team. 

Hayes was selected as the No. 8 pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Draft prior to his draft rights being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans.

UT’s three-man freshman class in 2019 was ranked as the No. 17 recruiting class in the nation by 247Sports Composite. All three signees were ranked among the Top 75 players nationally by one of the major recruiting services (Will Baker, No. 28 Rivals; Kai Jones, No. 49 247Sports; Donovan Williams, No. 61 Rivals). 

The Longhorns registered a 19-12 record and tied for third place in the Big 12 Conference (9-9 mark) during the 2019-20 season. UT was the No. 4 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, but the league’s postseason tourney and all postseason college basketball was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four Texas players earned spots on the 2019-20 Phillips 66 All-Big 12 Award teams. Matt Coleman III earned third-team honors, while Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jericho Sims each garnered honorable mention accolades. 

AT VCU (2009-15)
While at VCU, Smart posted an overall mark of 163-56 (.744) and guided the Rams to five NCAA Tournament appearances. The 163 wins tied him for the second-highest number of total victories during the first six years of a head coaching career in NCAA history. VCU and Duke were the only two programs in the country to record at least 26 wins in each of those six seasons during that time frame (2009-15).

VCU was one of only 11 schools in the nation to earn an NCAA Tournament bid in five straight years between 2011-15 (Cincinnati, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, San Diego State and Wisconsin). During Smart’s tenure, the Rams posted a 27-9 (.750) mark in postseason play and a 33-10 (.767) record in the month of March, including a 7-5 mark in five NCAA Tournament appearances. The Rams’ NCAA appearance in 2015 marked the first time in school history VCU had advanced to the Big Dance five straight years, and the first time in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia that a Division I basketball program had accomplished that feat. 

Prior to Smart’s arrival, the Rams were ranked a total of nine weeks in The Associated Press poll in program history. During his six years, VCU made 22 appearances in The AP Top 25, including three straight rankings in the final AP poll in 2012-13 (No. 25), 2013-14 (No. 24) and 2014-15 (No. 25), a program first. 

During Smart’s time at VCU, the Rams led the country in steals per game for three consecutive seasons (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14) and ranked fourth nationally in 2014-15 (9.5 spg.). In 2012-13, VCU’s 422 total steals shattered the Atlantic 10 single-season record of 352 set by Xavier in 1998-99. The 422 thefts marked the 18th-highest single-season total in NCAA Division I history. During the 2013-14 season, the Rams registered 391 steals, 21 more than any other squad. 

VCU also ranked near the top of the national statistics in turnover margin and opponent turnover rate under Smart’s guidance. The Rams led the nation in turnover margin in 2011-12 (+6.47) and 2012-13 (+8.03) and ranked third nationally (+5.4) during the 2014-15 season. VCU’s +8.03 mark in 2012-13 was the sixth-best turnover margin by an NCAA Division I team since the 1992-93 season.

“Havoc” was a hit with the VCU fan base. The Rams concluded the 2014-15 season with a streak of 66 consecutive sellouts at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. That is the fifth-longest active streak in the nation, trailing only Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Gonzaga. 

In the classroom, all 15 seniors in the six seasons under Smart graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree. Three of the 15 went on to earn a master’s degree.

Briante Weber made Atlantic 10 Conference history when he was named the A10 Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight season in 2014-15. Despite suffering a season-ending injury in late January, he finished third all-time in NCAA history with 374 career steals and led the nation with 121 steals during the 2013-14 season (13th-best total in NCAA Division I history). Treveon Graham, a two-time All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection, completed his career ranked second on the VCU all-time scoring list with 1,882 points and fifth in school history with 803 career rebounds.

Smart led VCU to a 26-10 overall record in 2014-15, including a 12-6 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference and a No. 25 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. The Rams captured the 2015 Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 before falling to Ohio State (75-72) in overtime. This marked the program’s first A10 title and ninth overall conference title for VCU. The Rams became the first team since Xavier in 2006 to win four games in four days at the A10 Tournament. VCU finished the year at No. 15 in the NCAA RPI with the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule and the eighth-toughest overall schedule. The Rams posted 14 wins against the NCAA RPI Top 100, with nine of those victories coming away from home.

In 2013-14, the Rams registered a 26-9 mark, including a 12-4 record in the A10. VCU advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round and ranked No. 24 in the final AP poll. The Rams climbed as high as No. 10 in The AP poll on Nov. 19, 2013, the highest AP ranking in school history (previous best was No. 11 on March 11, 1985).

Smart helped VCU make the transition from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) to the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2012-13, and the Rams registered a 27-9 mark, including a 12-4 record in the A10. VCU advanced to the NCAA Championship Third Round before falling to eventual NCAA finalist Michigan. The Rams were ranked No. 25 in the final AP poll, the school’s first appearance in the final poll since the 1984-85 season.

Despite the graduation of four of its five leading scorers from the 2011 Final Four team, Smart paced VCU to a 29-7 overall record in the 2011-12 season. The 29 wins set a school single-season record. The Rams posted a 15-3 mark in league play and won the CAA Tournament championship in their final year in the conference. VCU advanced to the NCAA Championship Third Round, defeating Wichita State in the Round of 64 before falling to Indiana (63-61). 

Smart’s tenure in VCU will be forever linked to the magical 2010-11 season, which saw the Rams advance to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history. VCU posted a 28-12 overall record, including a 12-6 mark in CAA play, and earned a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Forced to play in a First Four game in Dayton, the Rams registered five consecutive upsets in what many experts called the greatest run to the Final Four in tourney history. Along the way, VCU defeated USC (59-46), Georgetown (74-56), Purdue (94-76), Florida State (72-71 OT) and Kansas (71-61).

VCU, which fell to Butler in the NCAA semifinals, finished the season ranked No. 6 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, the highest in school and CAA history. Smart earned the Fritz Pollard and Clarence Gaines National Coach of the Year Awards. 

In his first year with the Rams, Smart paced VCU to a 27-9 overall record, including an 11-7 mark in the CAA, and the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship. VCU’s run to the CBI title included wins against George Washington (79-73), College of Charleston (93-86) and Boston University (88-75) before a two-game sweep of Saint Louis (68-56 and 71-65 wins) in the championship series. That team was led by Larry Sanders, who was selected as the No. 15 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, marking the highest NBA draft pick in VCU program history. 

Prior to his time at VCU, Smart worked as an assistant under notable coaches Billy Donovan (Florida), Oliver Purnell (Clemson and Dayton) and Keith Dambrot (Akron). During his one year with Donovan at Florida, he helped lead the Gators to a 25-11 mark and a trip to the Postseason NIT quarterfinals in 2008-09. The 25 victories marked the fifth-highest number of wins in a single season in program history.

He served as an assistant coach under Purnell at Clemson for two seasons (2006-08). In that span, the Tigers posted a total of 49 wins and made back-to-back postseason appearances, including a NCAA Tournament berth in 2008.

Smart worked as an assistant at Akron for three years (2003-06). In his final season on the staff, he helped the Zips to a 23-10 record, marking the school’s highest victory total since it became a Division I program in 1980-81.

He also worked for Purnell at Dayton as director of basketball operations for two seasons (2001-03). During that time, the Flyers registered a 45-17 mark and won the 2003 Atlantic 10 Championship. The 2002-03 squad posted a 24-6 record and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Smart began his coaching career as an assistant at California University (Pa.) from 1999-2001. During his two seasons, the school recorded a 40-16 mark. While there, he also earned his master’s degree in social science in 2001.

A four-year starter and three-year team captain at Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio), Smart graduated magna cum laude in 1999 with a degree in history. He still holds the school single-season (184 in 1998-99) and career (542) records for most assists. 
In his senior season, he earned All-North Coast Conference (NCAC) honors and was tabbed the league’s Scholar Athlete of the Year. Smart was one of 20 students named to the 1999 USA Today All-USA Academic Team and earned a prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarship. 

A native of Madison, Wis., Smart was born on April 8, 1977. He and his wife, Maya, have one daughter, Zora.

Smart delivered the main commencement address for his alma mater, Kenyon College, in May 2017.  In November of 2020, he joined the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Board of Directors.

The Shaka Smart File
Birthdate:  April 8, 1977
Hometown: Madison, Wis.
Education: Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio); magna cum laude, bachelor’s degree in history, 1999: California University (California, Pa.), master’s degree in social science, 2001
Wife: Maya
Daughter: Zora

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