VCU coach Shaka Smart passed up the chance to discuss the UCLA and Minnesota jobs, opting instead to sign a contract extension that reportedly goes until 2023 and increases his salary from $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
Smart's decision to remain at VCU marks the third consecutive spring he has rebuffed interest from more high-profile programs. Last March, Smart had a lucrative offer to replace Bruce Weber at Illinois, but stayed at VCU, prompting the school to drive home the message with a photo on the front of its athletics site that showed Smart giving two thumbs up with the message of "He's Our Guy."
It's unclear whether UCLA or Minnesota would have offered Smart if they had the chance, but either could have easily exceeded Smart's new $1.5 million salary if they did so.
A source with knowledge of the contract talks confirmed Smart's choice wasn't financially motivated and said his priority during negotiations was "supporting the players and the staff around him." That would include anything from more charter flights for road games, to higher salaries for assistant coaches, to upcoming facilities improvements.
VCU's willingness to comply shows its commitment to building its basketball program and its desire to keep its coach. Smart has amassed a 111-37 record in four seasons at VCU, winning at least one NCAA tournament game the past three seasons and taking the Rams to the 2011 Final Four.
“Coach Smart has demonstrated through this process that he is loyal to VCU and his greatest concern lies with our program moving forward every year,”VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said in a statement. "Our goal was to present him with a revised agreement proactively rather than wait for another institution to step in with an offer."
It never seemed likely Smart would leave a school where he has repeatedly insisted he's happy, but there were seemingly appealing aspects to both the UCLA and Minnesota jobs.
UCLA is probably a better job than any Smart had previously been offered because of its rich tradition, newly renovated arena and proximity to the recruiting hotbed of Los Angeles. And while Minnesota is only a middle-tier Big Ten job at best, its new athletic director is Norwood Teague, the same man who hired Smart at VCU.
Neither of those drawing cards was enough to even get Smart to the negotiating table though. Instead he'll be back at VCU leading a program that very well could be the favorite in the Atlantic 10 next season with Temple, Xavier and Butler all moving on to new leagues.
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