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Georgetown Head Coach Candidate: Shaka Smart

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Next up in our award-winning series is current Texas head coach Shaka Smart.

That collective sigh you hear is the sound of Hoya fans remembering the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Smart directed No. 11 seed VCU past Georgetown in the opening round en route to the Final Four.

The thing is, maybe you don’t hear those sighs over sounds of excited gasps. reported Smart’s potential candidacy for the now vacant head coaching job Thursday shortly after breaking the news that school was moving on from John Thompson III after 13 seasons. At least one source maintains the search committee’s strong interest in Smart to the point he is perhaps atop their wish list.

There is winning and there is popular. The personable Smart is among the D1 coaches whose Venn diagram, despite last season’s struggles at Texas, lands in the middle of both. Smart, who turns 40 next month, is the veteran of eight seasons as head coach of a D1 program. His teams won at least 20 games seven times while making six appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Yet it’s not just about winning, but style. Smart’s teams at VCU were branded “Havoc” because of the relentless full-court pressure defense deployed. Comparisons to the swarming approach from John Thompson Jr.’s Georgetown teams in the 1980’s aren’t a stretch. This approach is aggressive and certainly the mental opposite of the read-and-react offensive system used by JT3.

[PODCAST: Georgetown Ousts JT3. What Happened, What’s Next?]

Here’s the thing: Smart’s current contract has him with Texas until 2023. Contracts can and, in these coaching circles, often are broken. Money presumably wouldn’t be a holdup; Smart’s reported $3 million per year salary is comparable to the $3.6 million JT3 received in 2014, according to recent tax disclosures from the University.

Whether Smart wants out is an important angle. Two sources tell he’s not interested in leaving the Longhorns at this point. Maybe he wants to see things out with the Big 12 program. As attractive as Georgetown’s situation might be viewed by some, perhaps no athletic department in the country can touch Texas for resources.

Then there’s unfinished business. The Longhorns went 20-13 in 2015-16 as Smart’s streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances reached six. Seven seemed likely; Big 12 voters slotted Texas for a third-place conference finish and the Longhorns entered the season ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.

Oops. The Longhorns went 11-22 overall and 4-14 in Big 12 play. Some blame the lack of a quality point guard (Where have we heard that before?). Heralded recruit Jarrett Allen didn’t quite meet expectations, though the 6-foot-11 remains a potential lottery selection. Allen is entering the NBA Draft.

Does Smart want a change two years after making a bold move? We’ll see. It’s obvious why Georgetown hopes he does.


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