Mar 15, 2012
Shaka Smart Remains The Talk Of Illini Fans

The State Journal-Register, John Supinie

http://www.sj-r.com/sports/x503118127/VCU-coach-Shaka-Smart-remains-hot-topic-among-Illini-fans

CHAMPAIGN — So what’s new with Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart since he appeared in the Final Four last season?

“My wife and I had a baby girl 5 1/2 months ago, ” he said Wednesday in Portland, where No. 12 seed VCU will play No. 5 Wichita State today in the NCAA tournament. That’s a big deal for a first-time father but not a headline grabber in the sports pages.

With his reputation buffed by another trip to the NCAA bracket, Smart remained the hot topic for Illinois basketball fans, who await the new coaching hire.

Smart would be a home run hire for Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who seeks a move to inspire fans after firing Bruce Weber last week when the Illini missed the NCAAs for the third time in five seasons.

A 34-year-old native of Oregon, Wis., Smart became the darling of the bracket a year ago, the new face and a rising star. After VCU was maligned for its spot in the First Four a year ago, the Rams became the first team to win five games just to reach the Final Four.

“What last March did was it really exposed me to a lot of different coaching styles, a lot of different situations, ” Smart said. “We found a way to win five NCAA tournament games.

“Anytime you get stretched like that, you grow.”

Although Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall is also a candidate to move to a power conference program and has been mentioned in the Illini search, Smart fits the profile for an Illini hire. He has experience as a head coach with success on the recruiting and tournament trails, and there’s a desire for a minority candidate within the university system.

Shaka Smart Remains The Talk Of Illini Fans

The State Journal-Register, John Supinie

http://www.sj-r.com/sports/x503118127/VCU-coach-Shaka-Smart-remains-hot-topic-among-Illini-fans

CHAMPAIGN — So what’s new with Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart since he appeared in the Final Four last season?

“My wife and I had a baby girl 5 1/2 months ago, ” he said Wednesday in Portland, where No. 12 seed VCU will play No. 5 Wichita State today in the NCAA tournament. That’s a big deal for a first-time father but not a headline grabber in the sports pages.

With his reputation buffed by another trip to the NCAA bracket, Smart remained the hot topic for Illinois basketball fans, who await the new coaching hire.

Smart would be a home run hire for Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who seeks a move to inspire fans after firing Bruce Weber last week when the Illini missed the NCAAs for the third time in five seasons.

A 34-year-old native of Oregon, Wis., Smart became the darling of the bracket a year ago, the new face and a rising star. After VCU was maligned for its spot in the First Four a year ago, the Rams became the first team to win five games just to reach the Final Four.

“What last March did was it really exposed me to a lot of different coaching styles, a lot of different situations, ” Smart said. “We found a way to win five NCAA tournament games.

“Anytime you get stretched like that, you grow.”

Although Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall is also a candidate to move to a power conference program and has been mentioned in the Illini search, Smart fits the profile for an Illini hire. He has experience as a head coach with success on the recruiting and tournament trails, and there’s a desire for a minority candidate within the university system.






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