You’re probably asking yourself why did Shaka Smart turn down another big conference deal in the last calendar year.
Because he’s, well, smart… Duh!
Turning down the Illinois job was a brilliant move by Smart because frankly the Illinois job just isn’t worth the trouble.
Let’s be real about Smart’s last two offers from Illinois and Missouri. Yes they are big money conferences who can give him more money and a larger talent pool to choose from.
However, these are middle of the pack schools in their own conferences. Illinois and Mizzou are mid-level major schools (get it, mid-majors?) who would look for Smart to elevate them to Ohio State or Kansas status and if it doesn’t happen then he’d be fired in three years.
If he left VCU to go to either if these schools then it’s high risk and low reward. It’s rare that Illinois is at the top of the Big 10 save for the “Flying Illini” of 89 or the 2005 final team lead by Derin Williams.
It’s a middle of the road team that hardly contends for titles no matter what kind of talent they get.
Would you rather have that job or stay at VCU where after your Final Four run last year you have high job security and no worries?
For Smart the only jobs that make sense for him to take are bigger schools who have a shot at contention no matter who is there.
Imagine if Jim Calhoun leaves UCONN in a month or Ben Howland steps down from UCLA. Those are the jobs Smart should wait on, big schools with high expectations and that want results.
With the possibility of this actually happening it is best that Shaka Smart said no to Illinois.
As a successful mid-major coach, Smart should not settle for a Mid-Major job. He should bring his talents to a big enough school so that he can add to his Final Four credentials.
That’s the Smart thing to do, and hopefully his patience will lead him to that.