Less than a week after Shaka Smart finally met an offer he couldn’t refuse, VCU named his replacement.
On Wednesday, the Rams hired Will Wade, 32, a former Smart assistant, as head coach. Wade was the head coach at Chattanooga the past two seasons where he was 40-25.
According to the Washington Post, Wade’s hiring might not be enough to keep top recruit Tevin Mack, a 6-7 forward from Columbia, SC., at VCU. The Post reported Mack’s mother Paula saying Tevin had asked to be released from his letter of intent after Smart left, but VCU had not granted it.
Smart left VCU after six consecutive 26-win seasons, a feat matched only by Duke, to become the head coach at Texas.
VCU posted “THANK YOU” to Smart on its athletics website Friday.
Smart, 37, became one of college basketball’s hottest coaching prospects after the 11th-seeded Rams went from the NCAA Tournament’s First Four to the Final Four in 2011, knocking off Southern California, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas, the Southwest Region’s No. 1 seed.
The Rams’ 71-61 victory over the Jayhawks was named ESPN’s best upset of 2011.
The next season, No. 12 VCU upset No. 5 Wichita State, 62-59, in the tournament’s round of 64. But as a higher seed the past three years, VCU went 1-3 in the tournament — including a 77-75 overtime loss to No. 12 Stephen F. Austin in 2014 as a No. 5 seed and a 75-72 overtime loss to No. 10 Ohio State as a No. 7 seed this year.
“We will remember Shaka’s success on the court and with our student-athletes forever, but more importantly, he has helped to create a level of sustainable success on an elite level nationally,” Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said, “I speak for our entire department in thanking him and his staff for everything they have done for our student-athletes and VCU. We wish him well in Austin.”
Smart, who was 163-56 at VCU, reportedly turned down offers from North Carolina State, Illinois, Minnesota and became VCU’s highest-paid employee with a $1.36 million annual salary.
“It has been an extraordinary honor to be your head coach for the past six years. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to build on the tradition of VCU Basketball. I want to express my deep gratitude for all VCU players, past and present, our coaching staff and all the people that have worked tirelessly to support our program,” Smart said. “This program’s future is extremely bright. The best is yet to come.”
He replaced Rick Barnes, the winningest coach in Texas history (402-180 in 17 seasons). In 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, Barnes guided the Longhorns to five Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and one Final Four (2003). He also coached two national players of the year, T.J. Ford (2003) and Kevin Durant (2007)