By now, I’m sure you all have heard the news that our beloved coach Shaka Smart is taking his talents to Austin, Texas. Let me be one of the first to congratulate him and his wonderful wife Maya on their new adventure into major college athletics. Also, let me be one of the many that will want to thank Coach Smart, Maya, and baby Zora for all they have done for our RVA community since stepping on campus in 2009.
Honestly, who would have thought it would have been this great of a ride. I certainly could not have predicted this run. Really, we are talking: 6 seasons later, 163 wins later, 5 NCAA Tournament appearances later, tournament championships in both the Colonial and the Atlantic 10 later, and of course 1 legendary – historic trip to the Final Four later. As Dick Vitale would say, “flat-out awesome, baby.”
And while the on the court achievements are truly amazing, what is even more remarkable is the culture that Coach Smart has fostered leading his former and current players to be better individuals and leaders. More significant than any box score is the vast number of hours he was instrumental in his team giving back to the RVA community. Whether it was the Smart’s work on behalf of the FRIENDS Association for Children in Church Hill, the team’s surprise volunteer work at the Giving Heart Thanksgiving dinner, VCU Basketball’s visit to the children’s hospital, or Maya being one of the most successful Christmas Mothers in the history of the program, I marvel at how willing the Smart family has been to give back to Richmond’s community. And as a result, the RVA community has been changed for the better.
Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, whether you’d admit it or not, VCU Basketball is one of the major reasons why Richmond is in the positive space we are currently in right now. Why? Because VCU Basketball made it that much easier to be proud of Richmond. Thanks to Coach Smart, HAVOC was born here, and HAVOC is cool. Not just your basic cool, but Leonardo DiCaprio hat wearing cool – Drake sweatshirt wearing cool. HAVOC is hip hop and pop culture cool. And in turn, VCU Basketball, Coach Smart, and HAVOC has made RVA a much cooler place than it was in let’s say in 2008.
RVA is now a destination to brag about. True, VCU Basketball is just one puzzle piece in a plethora of things that have gone well for Richmond since 2009, but it’s a huge piece. And I cannot be more grateful that Coach Smart was the face of that piece.
As Coach Smart moves forward, we wish him the very best on this new journey. While there will be some die-hard VCU supporters with hard feelings. I’m certain that in time they will overcome their personal abandonment issues (as they did with Coach Anthony Grant and Coach Jeff Capel) and be grateful for the amazing run Coach Smart has had in Richmond.
I pray that VCU continues its magic touch of hiring the next best young coaching candidate in the country to continue the work of Coach Smart, Coach Grant and Coach Capel.
But for now, let’s thank, congratulate and toast Coach Shaka Smart, Maya Smart, and Zora Smart and let this be the only time in my life that I write “Hook’em….okay I can’t do it – too much. #GOVCU. #WESEEIT