He's young, fiery and quite inexperienced. If Alden looks into the candidacy of Shaka Smart, will he like what he sees?
Shaka Smart, VCU Head Coach
Career Record: 53-20 (two years at VCU).
Accomplishments: Well ... he's undefeated in the postseason, for starters, at least until tonight. VCU won the CBI last year and pantsed USC, Georgetown and Purdue on the way to this year's Sweet 16. Smart's "Havoc" style would fit in well with Mizzou's current personnel -- it's based on full-court press, a "back atcha" mentality that Mike Anderson instilled, and some basic-but-effective concepts on offense. He's a hot name because of his postseason success, though it's probably important to point out that he's also gone just 11-7 and 12-6 in the Colonial conference in his career. I'm a huge Colonial advocate, so I don't think that's a deal-breaker by any means, but it does show that Smart's style would possibly see a lot of the same effects as Mike Anderson's did -- the more familiar you are with it, the more capable you are of dealing with it.
Before He Was a Head Coach: Smart is on the cusp of a major-conference coaching job despite a) not having a major-college pedigree (he's a graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio), and b) barely being older than me because, basically, he's really, really smart. He was magna cum laude at Kenyon, earned a master's in social science at California University of Pennsylvania (thanks, Wikipedia!), and he has moved right on up the ladder. Upon departing California (PA), he was Dayton's director of basketball operations for two seasons (under press man Olver Purnell), an Akron assistant for three (Dan Hipsher and Keith Dambrot), a Clemson assistant for two more (Purnell again), went to Gainesville to work with Billy Donovan for a year, and wowed VCU enough in the interview process to get their head coaching job when Anthony Grant left.
Ties to the Midwest: He went to high school in Wisconsin and college in Ohio. He's veered east since graduation, however, and the rumor is it will be hard to pull him from the coast.
Ties to Missouri: None that I can tell. Really, his only tie to Missouri is in the style he plays.
Does He See Mizzou As a Destination Job? Probably not, honestly. Not to say he wouldn't stay here for a while, but he's a young guy who will most likely continue working his way up the ladder. He has no "alma mater" or "he was an assistant there forever" ties, but I could see him bouncing from job to job every few years until he lands at the perfect spot. For all we know, Mizzou could be that spot, but ... it might not.
Can He Recruit? Potentially. He's signed or secured eight commitments in two years, and seven of those players were given a 3-star rating by Rivals.com. He is an extremely charismatic, thoughtful guy, and in a major conference job, I don't see recruiting being a problem at all.
This Year's Recruits (i.e. Players Who Might or Might Not Come With Him): SG Briante Weber (***, 6'2, 180, Fork Union Military Academy -- committed, not signed), SF Treveon Graham (NR, 6'4, 205, Leonardtown, MD -- committed, not signed), SG A.J. English (***, 6'3, 175, Middletown, DE -- considering Marquette, Xavier, VCU, George Mason).
VCU's Ken Pomeroy Stats
VCU's Two-Year Average
Ken Pom Rankings
|VCU Offense||VCU Defense|
|Off. Reb. %||132.0
Statistical Tendencies: VCU's stats prove that full-court press does not necessarily mean fast pace. Smart's style is based around wearing you out mentally, and they do that through pressing on D and constantly throwing picks and obstacles at you on defense. They don't try to beat you downcourt all the time -- they just want you to always be thinking about they're doing, instead of what you're supposed to be doing. As with the Fastest 40 Minutes, there are downsides to this style; VCU is really no better a rebounding team than Missouri was this year, and if you're mentally strong, you can get good looks. VCU doesn't foul as much as Missouri did this year, and they do still win the ball control battle, but ... well, they're not always as good as they were in the NCAA Tournament last week, is what I'm trying to say. He could succeed at a really high level in the right position, but it's not a slam dunk by any means.
Would He Come Here? Again, the "He prefers the east coast" rumors are flying, and being that, at the very least, the N.C. State job is still open, I'm not completely convinced he would choose Mizzou given the numerous advances he is likely to receive when VCU loses soon (or, you know, wins the national title ... just to cover all the options). Mizzou has shown they're in a position to pay up if need be, but is Mike Alden willing to do that if he might just treat Mizzou like a lilypad school, a temporary stop? Doubtful.
Thoughts: Mike Alden went out of his way to proclaim that he wants a coach who sees Mizzou as his final stop, and for that reason alone, I doubt he takes a Smart candidacy very seriously. Smart would be a potentially strong hire, and honestly, I could see him absolutely nailing the interview if given the opportunity, but I don't think he'll be Missouri's first choice ... and considering he'll be in pretty high demand when his season ends, if he's not your first choice, he probably won't be around by the time you get to your second or third choice. I would be a little nervous if he were hired, but his upside is, to me, at least as high as that of Gregg Marshall and Cuonzo Martin.