Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart was once the most accomplished history major in his class at Ohio's prestigious Kenyon College, so it's no surprise he appreciates the historical significance of his unusual first name.
Smart's father, a native of Trinidad, named him after the influential Zulu chieftain Shaka, who united much of Southern Africa under his leadership in the early 1800s. Since Smart's father didn't play much of a role in raising him, the VCU coach joked with reporters on Saturday that the unique first name was "the best thing my dad did for me."
"Shaka was a warrior, he was a tough dude, and my dad chose to name me after him," Smart said. "You may have seen the movie Shaka Zulu? That's who I'm named after."
It's fitting that Smart is named after a King known for uniting multiple African tribes since one of the VCU coach's best attributes is his ability to motivate his players to come together for a common purpose. Smart has done that extremely effectively during the NCAA tournament, reminding the 11th-seeded Rams every chance he has that nobody thought they belonged in the field and that nobody is picking them to win.
While peers picked on Smart by calling him "Chaka Khan" or "Shaka Zulu" when he was a kid, he insists he likes having a first name that never got confused with anyone else in his classes. In fact, he told Dan Patrick on Monday morning that it was his last name that received more abuse than his first.
"My last name's 'Smart,' so a lot of times people would say my middle name is 'Not' or something like that," he recalled.
Considering Smart was accepted into Harvard and Yale, graduated from Kenyon College magna cum laude in 1999 and has been a brilliant tactician in this NCAA tournament, it's probably safe to assume that joke hasn't been used in a while.
Follow Yahoo! Sports on Facebook and be the first to know about the most interesting stories of the day.
- Kenyon College
- Shaka Zulu