Shaka Smart ’99 is leading Virginia Commonwealth University’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament for the second time in four years. This week, as Smart faces off against The Ohio State University, the Washington Post and the Columbus Dispatch both published stories about the Kenyon alum.
Both stories discuss Smart’s decision to stay with the VCU Rams instead of moving on to a bigger teams where he could earn significantly more and take command of a stronger basketball program. VCU is a “mid-major” team, meaning it is not one of the major conferences (Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) that dominate Division I college sports; Smart, considered a top-coach, has remained at VCU though other mid-major coaches whose teams have reached the Final Four have gone on to bigger schools or professional teams.
The Post article explained that rather than move on to a bigger school, Smart has “molded VCU into one.” During his tenure as a coach he has helped cement VCU as one of the top 25 D-I basketball programs in the country
His loyalty to VCU can be traced back to his time playing basketball here at Kenyon. Smart was recruited by former Kenyon coach Bill Brown, who left after Smart’s freshman year. Brown’s departure crushed Smart, who grew up in a single parent home and saw the coach as a father figure. Smart is quoted in the Dispatch as saying “honestly, that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed at VCU;” nine of the VCU players this season were raised without fathers. Smart has turned downs offers from UCLA, Wake Forest, and Marquette to stay with VCU.