When blue chip high school prospects go through the recruiting process, they rarely commit to the first coach that sent them a packet during their freshman year in high school.
If Smart’s learned anything from his predecessors Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, it’s that coaches got to be just as selective as recruits. He’s turned down various job offers in the past for a litany of reasons he’s kept to himself, but he is only 35 years old. After Michigan straight manhandled VCU, Smart wisely deflected the questions again on Saturday, but let's be real, this shouldn't be his final coaching destination. He's accomplished plenty at VCU, but there's a higher plane of existence at the collegiate level than the A-10. Here are (potentially) the top five programs that would allow Smart to join the coaching titans on Mount Olympus.
One man’s pink slip is another man’s blessing. Ben Howland recruited All-American talent to Westwood, but he could never get his kids to play with any enthusiasm or as a team. UCLA would be a major culture shock for Smart. Not only would he be west of Wisconsin for the first time in his life, but he’d likely have to develop a whole new recruiting pipeline. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that a charismatic and intellectual, midwesterner with a mid-major pedigree has found success in Westwood before.
It’s not a conventional pick. However, it would be an intriguing turn of events for Smart to spurn the major colleges in favor of using his unique, high-profile cache to develop a historically black college. At an HBCU, he won’t have the athletic facilities or television exposure, but with success those will come. He does have an ancillary recruiting advantage that most PWI’s (besides Georgia State) may never. It’s not quite on Howard’s level, but Hampton has a campus chock-full of fine black women and a strong journalism department (for the parents) to pitch on recruiting visits.
Smart strikes me as one of the James Franklin, “program builder” types. Give that man a basketball court, a hammer, some nails and watch him put HBCUs back on the map. He would become a legend for this -- one some Barack Obama ish. Who knows, it could spur a movement and Smart could establish a legacy as college hoops’ Eddie Robinson.
3. NC State
Smart turned down NC State's advances in 2011 and they moved on to Mark Gottfried, who accepted. Based on his previous stop at Alabama and his first two years at NC State, it's obvious that NC State can do better. While Gottfried has some talent at Raleigh, the tournament wins haven’t followed. With the recruiting resources on Tobacco Road, the Wolfpack’s can “survive and advance” into April once again. Shaka Smart has coached the little guy for much of his career. Although NC State is an ACC powerhouse, they’ve always been the David amongst Goliaths Duke and UNC. The Havoc defense could be his slingshot.
Jim Boeheim may front like he’s not feeling the NCAA’s boot on his neck, but if Mark Emmert’s crew hits Syracuse with major sanctions, Syracuse may put boots to his ass. Smart could ride in on his noble steed, much like Tom Crean at Indiana and guide the Orange into the ACC era. The 2-3 zone defense has been a staple of Syracuse for over 36 years. The transition to Smart would be smoother than Billy D. Williams.
This is difficult to say -- because coaching Georgetown basketball is a family heirloom -- but, Shaka Smart would be a perfect fit at “John Thompson University.” John Thompson III is married to the Princeton offensive system, but Washingtonians aren’t all that enamored with it or the results it has produced in March (FIVE(!!) first round losses in nine years). Georgetown fans would gladly trade in the Havoc defense for this version Hoya Paranoia. Combining the energy Shaka exudes with the DMV recruiting hotbed and Hoyas history would put the Catholic 7 and the nation on notice. Shaka knows his history and he knows hoops. Put him in Verizon Center and he would make history of his own.