Shaka Smart

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Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart at UVA.jpg
Smart speaks with an official in a game in November, 2013
Sport(s) Basketball
Current position
Title Head coach
Team VCU
Conference Atlantic 10
Record 163–56 (.744)
Annual salary $1,500,000[1]
Biographical details
Born (1977-04-08) April 8, 1977 (age 37)
Madison, Wisconsin
Playing career
1995–1999 Kenyon
Position(s) Point guard
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
California (PA) (asst.)
Akron (asst.)
Clemson (asst.)
Florida (asst.)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
2001–2003 Dayton (basketball operations)
Head coaching record
Overall 163–56 (.744)
Tournaments (NCAA): 7–5
(CBI): 5–0
Accomplishments and honors
CBI Tournament Championship (2010)
Regional Championship - Final Four (2011)
CAA Tournament Championship (2012)
A-10 Tournament Championship (2015)

Shaka Smart (born April 8, 1977) is an American college basketball coach, and the head coach of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Playing career[edit]

In high school, Smart was a three-year starter for Oregon High School in Wisconsin. He was a second-team All-Badger Conference pick as a senior and by the end of his career was the all-time assists leader at Oregon for a career (458), season (201) and single game (20).[2]

After graduating from high school, Smart attended Kenyon College, a liberal arts school in Ohio. On the ESPN program Pardon the Interruption, Smart credited his personal relationship with then head coach Bill Brown as the reason for his decision. As a member of the Kenyon College basketball team, he was an all-conference selection as a senior and is the school's career assists leader (542).[3] Smart was named a member of the 1999 USA TODAY All-USA Academic Team.

Coaching career[edit]

Assistant coach[edit]

Smart began his coaching career in 1999 as an assistant at California University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a Master's Degree. Afterwards, he was hired as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Dayton. He was then an assistant at the University of Akron for three years, Clemson for two, and Florida for one.


VCU hired Smart to be the head coach in the spring of 2009 after the program's previous coach, Anthony Grant, left to become the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball team. Smart's hire made him the 10th-youngest head coach in Division I. In his first season, he led the Rams to a 27–10 season and a CBI Championship after VCU swept Saint Louis in the championship best-of-three series.[4]

Smart's second season began with forward Larry Sanders declaring for the 2010 NBA Draft after his junior season. Sanders' selection by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th pick made VCU the first school in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have a player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in consecutive years, as the Utah Jazz had selected guard Eric Maynor with the 20th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. The Rams under Smart went 23–11 in the 2010–2011 season. Smart led the Rams to their second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game, where they lost to Old Dominion.

Despite not securing the automatic bid, VCU earned an at-large bid to the Southwest region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but were placed in the "First Four" against USC for a spot in the main 64-team tournament bracket. The Rams' selection into the tournament was widely criticized. His coaching strategy, positive outlook, and patience helped VCU defeat USC in the First Four, and then upset the 6th-seeded Georgetown Hoyas and 3rd-seeded Purdue Boilermakers to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. VCU won 72–71 against Florida State University in overtime to earn the school's first spot in the Elite Eight and subsequently upset the top-seeded University of Kansas 71–61 for its first Final Four appearance. But in the Final Four, the Rams lost to Butler 70-62.

On April 4, 2011, Smart agreed to an 8-year contract extension with VCU, increasing his base pay from $350,000 to $1.2 million per year, prior to any performance bonuses.[5][6]

On January 19, 2013, Shaka Smart became the second youngest active coach to win 100 games, in a 90-63 victory over Duquesne.[7]

Style of play[edit]

Smart's teams play an upbeat style of basketball known as "havoc." Smart described his "havoc" defensive philosophy during his introductory press conference as, "We are going to wreak havoc on our opponent's psyche and their plan of attack." On the court, the "havoc" defensive mindset is visible through the heavy use of the full court press and pressing after made baskets to disrupt opponents' timing of offensive sets. The Rams have consistently maintained one of the most efficient and disruptive defenses in the nation, ranking 1st nationally in both turnovers and steals forced per possession from 2011-2014. Offensively, Smart-coached teams play uptempo, push the ball after misses, and run a weave-heavy motion offense.

Personal life[edit]

Smart's given name was bestowed in honor of the famous Zulu warrior.[8] He graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon with a degree in History, researching and writing on issues related to race and the Great Migration his junior and senior years.[9] Smart received an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and earned a master's degree in social science at California University of Pennsylvania. He developed a love for quotations at Kenyon. Smart began writing down quotes into a digital document that is now over 110 pages long. He also likes nature documentaries featuring big cats.[10]

Smart has been married to Maya Payne, a professional writer and an alumna of both Harvard University and Northwestern University,[11] since 2006.[12] Their child, Zora Sanae Smart, was born on September 25, 2011.[13]

Smart's half-brother is the writer and professor, J.M. Tyree.[14]

He is a supporter of President Barack Obama, for whom he campaigned in Florida in 2008 and Virginia in 2012.[15]

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
VCU Rams (Colonial Athletic Association) (2009–2012)
2009–10 VCU 27–9 11–7 T–5th CBI Champions
2010–11 VCU 28–12 12–6 4th NCAA Final Four
2011–12 VCU 29–7 15–3 2nd NCAA Round of 32
VCU Rams (Atlantic 10 Conference) (2012–present)
2012–13 VCU 27–9 12–4 2nd NCAA Round of 32
2013–14 VCU 26–9 12–4 2nd NCAA Round of 64
2014–15 VCU 26–10 12–6 T–4th NCAA Round of 64
VCU: 163–56 (.744) 74–30 (.712)
Total: 163–56 (.744)

      National champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. ^ "Shaka Smart to remain at VCU". Retrieved April 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ "NCAA men's basketball: Ex-Oregon athlete Shaka Smart guides VCU past Georgetown". March 18, 2011. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  3. ^ Shaka Smart. "VCU Athletics". VCU Athletics. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. Saint Louis Billikens - Recap - March 31, 2010 - ESPN
  5. ^ DeCourcy, Mike. "Shaka Smart agrees to eight-year contract with VCU". Sporting News. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Shaka Smart has deal to remain at Virginia Commonwealth - ESPN
  7. ^ VCU blowout gives Smart 100th win
  8. ^ Branch, John (March 26, 2011). "Coach Shaka Smart Has Become V.C.U.'s Brightest Star". The New York Times. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Illinois Fighting Illini targeting VCU Rams coach Shaka Smart, according to source - ESPN Chicago
  12. ^ "Shaka Smart". University Athletic Assoc., Inc., Sun Sports & IMG College. Retrieved March 31, 2009. 
  13. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Coach Smart Is Going To Be a Father" Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  14. ^ Tyree, J.M. (25 March 2011). "Shaka Smart, VCU: What it's like being related to the hottest name in March Madness Slate Magazine". Slate. Retrieved 27 March 27, 2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  15. ^ Wise, Scott (6 May 2012). "Shaka Smart: "I support President Obama"". WTVR. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 

External links[edit]