Home #ShakaWatch: Can VCU pick the next winner?

#ShakaWatch: Can VCU pick the next winner?


vcu-ramsShaka Smart isn’t the first successful VCU basketball coach poached by a Power 5 conference school. Remember Jeff Capel? In four seasons at VCU, from 2002-2006, Capel’s Rams teams went 79-41, making one NCAA and one NIT appearance, which was enough to land Capel at Oklahoma. Enter Anthony Grant, whose teams built on Capel’s success and took things to the next level, going 76-25 in three seasons, with two NCAA appearances, a win over Duke in 2007, getting Grant a job offer from Alabama.

Neither lasted at their next job, incidentally, so Texas, which just hired Smart, buyer beware.

Smart’s six VCU teams were 163-56 with five NCAA Tournament appearances and one Final Four, in 2011. The knock, and you have to look hard to find a knock, is that the Rams lost their last three NCAA Tournament games, going down in their openers each of the last two.

Still, averaging 27 wins a year at a mid-major is hard to overlook, and that’s why Smart, like his predecessors, was a hot commodity, and why Texas is no doubt backing up an armored vehicle to Smart’s house to get him packing and on the move to Austin.

Long view here, though, shows that VCU is averaging 24 wins a year over the last 13 years, dating back to Capel’s first season in Richmond, with eight NCAA appearances, two NITs and a CBI championship in that run.

Something else remarkable here: the lowest win total for VCU basketball in the last 13 years is 18, in Capel’s first season, in 2002-2003.

Which is to say, this is a program that has won, won consistently, won over the long term, and won with three different guys at the helm.

VCU has proven that it is willing to pay good money to the right coach. Smart was making $1.3 million a yaer when Texas came with Don’t Mess with Texas money to steal him away, but VCU is not your typical mid-major.

So who is the next guy? Maybe one of the previous guys. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Grant, recently fired by Alabama, or Capel, who landed at Duke, his alma mater, after being fired by Oklahoma, came back for a Round Two?

Or with VCU’s track record of finding talent by combing through the ranks of young, up-and-coming assistants, maybe there’s somebody that we’re not thinking of that makes better sense.

Whatever the case, it’s not the end of the world for VCU basketball, by far. This is a program that knows how to do it, and do it well.

– Column by Chris Graham



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