- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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Editor’s note: Some coaches’ names always seem to come up for other jobs. But what would it take for them to actually leave? This week, we’ll look at the names most often mentioned. Today, we look at VCU’s Shaka Smart.
Aside from Butler fans, maybe no one was more upset when Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics than Shaka Smart. Stevens and Smart were the dynamic duo of coaching rumors, up for every high-level position that opened in the past few years. Stevens’ departure put Smart directly in the crossfire. Thank heavens for Gregg Marshall.
There’s good reason, of course, that Smart has attracted so many suitors in such a short time. At only 37, he has turned VCU into a household name and not just a passing fancy every March. Under his watch, the Rams have been to four NCAA tournaments in five of his years, including the 2011 Final Four; won 137 games; upgraded their conference from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Atlantic 10; and practically claimed a patent on the word, "havoc," Smart’s perfectly suited description of VCU’s defense.
Smart has leveraged all of that success into bigger salaries for himself and his staff, a better budget and recently announced plans for a $25 million practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball.
What would it take?
Already Smart has been rumored to be involved with openings at Minnesota, USC and UCLA and has yet to jump.
A self-described creature of habit who admits candidly he’s not real fond of change, Smart would need almost a sure thing to move, and that doesn’t mean just a place where he could win games.
Smart believes strongly in the top-down approach and would need to be assured that another school’s administration not only is committed to basketball but also shares the same vision that he has.
But the winning does matter, too, and not just winning on a national scale but also within a conference. In order to be perceived as successful and be successful, Smart knows that a team has to win its conference battles, and a team that is mired at the bottom of a conference that continues to get tougher -- the ACC, for example -- would offer little attraction for a man who already is top dog in a very good basketball league.
Possibilities: Think big or go home: Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and perhaps even a good NBA gig.