CHICAGO – Being a hot commodity is nothing new to Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart.
“I was accepted there, I visited there,” Smart said Saturday in preparation for a third-round Southwest Regional game against Purdue. “But I really wanted to go somewhere where I felt comfortable and had a great relationship with the basketball coach.”
Smart wound up choosing Kenyon College in Ohio, where he forged a close bond with coach Bill Brown. Smart graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history in 1999, and left as the school’s career assists leader.
“A lot of people thought I was nuts to turn down the Ivy League schools I got into, but I thought I got a pretty good education and I was able to get a good start in coaching because of it,” Smart said.
Brown gave Smart his first college assistant coaching position at California University of Pennsylvania. That led to greater opportunities. He went on to serve as an assistant under Keith Dambrot at Akron, Oliver Purnell at Clemson and Billy Donovan at Florida.
Now Smart has VCU on the fast track, and he swears his personal aim hasn’t shifted an iota.
“We’re just so focused on what we’re doing and on Purdue right now,” Smart said. “The media – you know March and April is all about the coaching carousel and all that stuff. That couldn’t be farther from my mind or, I hope, anyone’s mind with our program. We’ve got a huge game with Purdue with the opportunity to make school history, and that’s basically all there is to it.”