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Shaka Smart Goes to Texas, What's Next For VCU?

With Shaka Smart gone VCU will be one of the nation's most intriguing openings. Who are some early candidates to keep an eye on as the Rams look for a replacement?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka reportedly has agreed to be the next coach of the Texas Longhorns and leave VCU after six seasons on Broad Street. VCU will move swiftly to hire their next head coach and here is a look at some candidates to keep an eye on.

Early indications, according to multiple sources, is that athletic director Ed McLaughlin is leaning away from hiring a coach with ties to VCU and wants his "own guy". Despite that he'll have a slew of attractive options that will be hard to ignore from Shaka's coaching tree.

The Pipeline

Mike Rhoades, Rice: After flirtation ranging from Radford to Siena over the years former Division III head coach Mike Rhoades finally left the nest last season to become the head coach for the Rice Owls. Rhoades he a solid year in Houston with an 12-20 mark rebuilding the beleaguered Owls. Many thought that he was the best X's and O's coach that VCU had under Shaka's tenure and the Rams suffered a bit in the halfcourt after his departure. Rhoades isn't as much of an energy guy as Shaka but he'd be the best basketball hire that athletic director Ed McLaughlin could make.

Will Wade, Chattanooga: Will Wade just finished his second year at Chattanooga and has lead the Mocs to a 40-25 mark so far.  Wade is an energetic young coach who has instilled a HAVOC style brand in Tennessee that he calls CHAOS. There were rumors that Wade was in line for the Charlotte vacancy but they obviously went in a different direction. The knock on Wade at this point is his relative inexperience as a young head coach, he's 32 years old, and the fact that he hasn't been able to have success in the postseason going 0-3 in the Southern Conference Tournament and the CIT combined. The jury is still out on Wade as he inherited a tremendous wealth of talent with the Mocs in Z Mason, Casey Jones, and others. The one key contributor he has brought in is VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo.

Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary's: If you want Shaka Smart lite then Jamion Christian is your guy. Much like Wade, Christian parlayed a year at VCU under Smart to start a MAYHEM branded system at the Mount. Christian has garnered a 49-46 at MSM over three seasons and lead them to a NEC championship and a NCAA appearance a year ago. He's also had stops at William & Mary and Bucknell and will be just about the most energetic candidate a potential employer could find.

Mike Jones, Radford: Mike Jones is probably the polar opposite of Christian and Wade but still has had a lot of success rebuilding a Radford program that was shattered after Brad Greenberg left with some NCAA violations. Jones has built the Highlanders with local recruits and marched them back to respectability over the past four years garnering postseason births in the CBI both of the last two years. The 49 year old coach has some interesting influences as he's spent time under John Beilein at Richmond and West Virginia (2000-03), Dennis Felton at Georgia (03-09), and Smart (09-11). Jones is certainly a longshot but could come up in conversations.

The Return

Hey...Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel are both out there, so why not a return to the place where they both made their names? Capel is likely heading to Arizona State so Grant would be the most logical of the two. Obviously he already knows the area and played a similar style at VCU but just didn't brand it the same way as Smart. You have to think that Grant would want to prove himself once again after being the architect of the team that went to the Final 4.

Buffalo Connection

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo: Hurley has been a hot name after leading the Bulls to a MAC title and the NCAA Tournament this past year. He has experience with his brother at Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 and would certainly be a guy that could maintain the energy on Broad Street. VCU AD Ed McLaughin was previously at Niagara and he likely has a pretty good pulse one what's going down in his old home town.

Joe Mihalich, Hofstra: Speaking of Niagara what about former 15 year head coach Joe Mihalich? Obviously there is already a prior relationship with McLaughlin and he's already had success at Hofstra nabbing 20 years this past season. Mihalich is 58 years old and a bit of a mismatch for the VCU fans but don't be surprised if his name comes up.


VCU has been known in the past for their work with VILLA 7 which resulted in the hiring of Capel, Grant, and Smart. It was former VCU AD Doc Sanders' brainchild and now it's moved on to Minnesota with another former AD Norwood Teague. VCU has felt responsibility to hire from the program in the past but obviously McLaughlin is new at this and there is no indication where he could go.


Jason Williford, Virginia: Tony Bennett has done a very solid job of keep his staff intact at UVA, depsite Ritchie McKay heading back to Liberty. One name that should pop up early in the VCU process is the Cavaliers' Jason Williford. Williford is a Richmond native who has been coaching in the state for the past six years. He was an assistant at American and Boston University before coming to UVA and is primed to take a challenge elsewhere as a head coach.

Kevin Keatts, UNC Wilmington: Keatts just wrapped up his first year at UNC Wilmington with an 18-14 mark and a CIT birth. The job he did their in reshaping the roster at a rapid pace was nothing short of miraculous. The former Louisville assistant plays a style that would entertain on Broad Street and has plenty of Virginia ties as a Lynchburg native and spending over ten years as the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy. He's a coach on the rise and landing the VCU job would be a catalyst to his career aspirations.

Jeff Boals, Ohio State: The Ohio State assistant's name seems to come up in every decent job search over the past few years but for now he's still in Columbus.  Boals has been with Thad Matta since 2009 and previously was an assistant at Akron and Robert Morris. He's quickly become one of the nation's most well respected recruiters and should get a quality job as a head coach sooner rather than later.

Nate James, Duke: Nate James is in the same boat as Boals and seems like the next Duke assistant in line for a great job. He's been under Coach K since 2008 and would be a great pick up for any school at VCU's level. He obviously has plenty of recruiting experience in VCU's backyard as well.