Ever since VCU went to the Final Four as an 11-seed, the name on anyone's lips when a coaching position has opened at a big program has been Shaka Smart.
But time after time, Smart said "No." There was UCLA, North Carolina State, Illinois, Marquette, Minnesota: the list just kept growing and growing. It seemed like nothing -- not money, not the name on a jersey -- could pull him away.
Everything seemed perfect in Richmond. His fans loved him, and he could do no wrong after leading their team to the Final Four, and seemed always ready to win another title first in the CAA and then in the Atlantic 10. He was making a reported $1.5 million-plus per year, and had set things up for his assistant coaches to feel comfortable in their spots, as well as building them up to grow his own coaching tree.
Now he will work to build a similar structure in Austin, where the resources are bigger, where he will have to contend with a legacy of football, and find a way to make the same impact that he has in Richmond. Multiple outlets confirmed Thursday night that Shaka finally said "Yes."
Smart was 163-56 as the head coach of the Rams, and a combined 74-30 in conference games (38-16 in CAA, 36-14 in A-10). He won the CBI in his inaugural season at the helm, and went to the Final Four from the First Four in the next. Since then, Smart's teams have won just two NCAA Tournament games, while being bounced in their opening game each of the last two years.
But that run still has them earning five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, even if there were no regular season championship in that time.
Whether HAVOC can work at Texas remains to be seen. This was not a team that generated a lot of turnovers to drive the offense under Rick Barnes. There aren't the strong defensive guards that made Smart so successful at VCU.
But he will have some great big men inside, something that he hasn't been able to have with any consistency yet. Perhaps HAVOC will take a new form with blocks leading the way.
Smart should have a good start on improving the solid foundation that Barnes left behind. Now his real test begins.