Shaka Smart is in the enviable position of being able to choose his next job. However, he would be making the best decision for himself by staying at VCU.
Ever since he took his squad to the Final Four in 2011, Smart has been a hot name whenever a coaching position is vacant. Most recently, UCLA and Minnesota fired their coaches and are looking for a suitable replacements.
While these would be dream jobs for most people, the 35-year-old coach does not appear to be going anywhere.
According to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today, VCU is looking to restructure Smart's contract in an effort to keep him around for a long time. However, this is not just about more money. Auerbach writes, "Talks have centered on what Smart and VCU believe will move the program forward, as opposed to Smart's compensation, the person said, which includes recruiting and travel arrangements."
With this type of mindset, there is no question that he will continue to be successful at VCU.
In case you have not noticed, the college basketball world is flat. While the big-time programs still have their advantages, the path to winning a championship is equal for any Division I school across the country.
This season, Gonzaga was given a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament over the equally deserving Duke. While the Bulldogs lost early, it was to Wichita State, another mid-major program.
Smart has already taken Virginia Commonwealth to a Final Four, but that is just the beginning. The Rams have already turned from Cinderella to legitimate contenders. They were a No. 5 seed this season, and it would not be surprising to see higher seeds in future seasons.
The coach has already done the hard part. He has built a program from nothing and has it in a perfect situation to succeed. The system is in place, the players are there (all but two players return next season) and he has the reputation to get more stars in the future.
On the other hand, he would have to start basically from scratch with a new program. Obviously, good recruits would love to play at a school like UCLA, but he would have to build new ties and work to find the right players for his system.
In reality, he is closer to winning a national title in his current spot than at any schools with openings.
Additionally, a bigger, new job only leads to bigger expectations. Huge alumni bases would start getting edgy if he was unable to win in the first couple of seasons. This is unlikely at VCU, where he should be employed for life, or close to it.
If his current employer is willing to give him a better budget for the things necessary to keep winning, he has no reason to leave.
It is hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes, especially when that person is forced to make a life-altering move. However, Smart would be making the best short- and long-term decision for himself by staying at VCU.
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