Shaka Smart quickly became one of the hottest coaching names in college basketball after leading Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four in 2011 in just his second season as a head coach. Two seasons later, he remains a top head coaching target, and rival programs UCLA and USC reportedly have their sights set on the 35-year-old.
UCLA fired Ben Howland Sunday. ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that athletic director Dan Guerrero is locked in on Smart as his top candidate to replace Howland.
USC fired Kevin O’Neill in January and is looking for someone to replace interim coach Bob Cantu. The LA Daily News’ Scott Wolf reports that the Trojans are also interested in Smart.
Smart has championed a “havoc” defense that features an up-tempo, pressing style. His coaching style has helped him compile an impressive 111-37 (.750) record in four seasons. He signed an eight-year contract extension with VCU in 2011 and turned down the Illinois job last year.
Would Smart be willing to leave VCU? Would a job like the UCLA one be enough to entice him to head to LA? It’s difficult to say, but he might feel more prepared for the big time now that he has been a head coach for four seasons.
If either school lands Smart — and we don’t think that happens — it would set their program up for success for many years. Another interesting thought to consider is a wild one floated by former UCLA star and current FOX Sports analyst Marques Johnson. Johnson suggested that Howland could go to USC and compete against the program that fired him. Now that would blow my mind if it happened.