Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the
first second round last week by Stephen F. Austin thanks in part to the rare four-point play. Even so Smart remains one of the “hot” coaching candidates in America. Smart has flirted with other schools since leading the Rams to the 2011 Final Four. He turned down the Illinois job in 2012 and last summer there were rumors linking him to the then-vacant Minnesota job. In short, Smart’s been linked to almost every job opening in the last couple years.
Friday Buzz Williams left Marquette to take over at Virginia Tech, so naturally Smart is linked heavily with the opening in Milwaukee (as well as the vacant posts at Wake Forest and South Florida). The Golden Eagles appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse.
This begs a simple question: is the Marquette job, Al McGuire and history aside, a big step up from VCU? In fairness this is more a question about the reworked college basketball landscape. Two or three years ago the chance to move from an Atlantic 10 school to a Big East school would be a no-brainer. Now? This feels like it would be a lateral move, at best.
That said, Williams was reportedly making close to $3 million at Marquette so that could clearly influence’s Smart’s decision-making. (Smart is making under $1 million at VCU in a unique, incentive-based deal.)
Everything in college basketball is transient, but the 2014 NCAA Tournament featured seven A-10 schools compared to five from the new Big East. Dayton is the only one of those 12 teams still standing in the Sweet 16.
Given Smart’s flirtations with previous jobs, until he’s in Milwaukee eating a brat wearing a golden sweatshirt, we’ll believe it when we see it.