Just days after the VCU basketball program had its incredible NCAA Tournament Final Four run ended by Butler, the Rams head coach Shaka Smart agreed to sign an eight-year year extension Monday. The agreement ends speculation that Smart was going to leave Virginia Commonwealth Rams for N.C. State or another school in a big-named conference.
"True to form, Coach Smart's primary concerns were about his players, coaches and the overall support of the basketball program," VCU athletic director Norwood Teague said in a statement. "We are honored that he has decided to stay a VCU Ram. He exemplifies everything that is right about college athletics, and VCU is ecstatic about the future under his leadership."
In just his second season, Smart led the Rams to a 21-10 regular season record, a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was parlayed and the school's first Final Four appearance. VCU (28-12) had its miraculous March Madness run end with a 70-62 loss to No. 8 Butler Bulldogs, who will play No. 3 UConn Huskies in the National Championship Game on Monday night (9:23 p.m. on CBS).
"I'm extremely grateful for the belief that Dr. Rao and Norwood Teague have shown and continue to show in our coaching staff and basketball program," Smart said. "Their support, in addition to the bright future that our student-athletes possess, make VCU a very special place for me to be the head basketball coach. I'm very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for both our program and our university."
Smith's commitment to VCU shows just how the landscape of college basketball is changing. Smith, like many past coaches at other programs have done, could have cashed in on his and VCU's successes and taken a job in the ACC or another BCS conference, but instead remained committed to coaching at a mid major in Richmond, VA.
This decision, which would have been mocked a few years ago, seems to be the smart move (no pun intended) because Smart and the Rams could dominate the Colonial Athletic Association for years to came. Smith could parlay that success into a NCAA Tournament invite and try to, again, to make another run at the Final Four, which is possible now because of all the parody in college basketball.
Smart doesn't need to take a higher paying job at a bigger but mediocre program in the ACC, Big East or Big 10. Why try to compete against the Dukes and UNCs and get shafted out of a tournament bid when you can be consistently good in a conference that's will get more respect after this season? Seems like a good call by VCU, Smart and for college basketball.