10 Inspiring Facts About VCU Coach Shaka Smart

VCU Coach Shaka Smart has made quite a mark on college sports.

According to sports analysts, VCU was never supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament.

Poetically, the VCU basketball used the backlash to motivate them.

Just ask the men’s basketball teams from USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and now Kansas.

VCU eliminated them all.

America loves an underdog and VCU fits the bill (here’s why it matters to all of us).

I drive past the campus of VCU each morning and Richmond is in a state of true March Madness.

There is even a giant banner of Dick Vitale around town that reads “Eat Crow Baby!”

(Being a great commentator and sports fan, I’m sure Dickie V has taken the banner in good humor.)

Now more than ever, Shaka Smart is a hot coaching commodity.

VCU may suffer from it’s own success as the suitors from power conferences (e.g. Missouri, Tennessee, NC State) start calling for Smart with bigger paycheck offers.

Local fans can only hope that Smart follows the lead of another CAA Coach, Jim Larranaga from George Mason, who stayed in the conference after a similar Final Four run.

But ultimately, we all need to respect Smart’s professional and personal goals.

Here are 10 inspiring facts about VCU Coach Shaka Smart:

1. Raised by a single mother in Wisconsin, Shaka Smart is named after Shaka Zulu, the southern African king who united hundreds of thousands of people.

2. Achieved a near perfect SAT score while in high school in Oregon, WI (outside Madison).  Three-year starter for Oregon High School’s basketball team. Owns school records for career assists (458), season (201), and single game (20).

3. Accepted at Ivy Leagues schools Harvard, Yale, and Brown (Smart decided to attend Kenyon College in Ohio  – which is the alma mater of actor Paul Newman, former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist).

4. Started as a freshman point guard at Kenyon College, and ended up as the school’s all-time assists leader with 542.

5. Recognized as the North Coast Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year as a senior.  Graduated magna cum laude in 1999 with a degree in history.

6. One of 20 students in the country to be named to the USA Today All-USA Academic Team in 1999.

7. Earned a Master’s degree in Social Science from California University of Pennsylvania while serving as assistant basketball coach.

8. Led VCU to 27 wins in the 2009-10 season (Smart’s first year as a head coach). The win total topped all first-year head coaches in the country.

9. Coaches a style of basketball at VCU known as “wreaking havoc” through the heavy use of full court press (VCU led the CAA in steals this year).

10. At age 33, Smart is the second youngest coach in the NCAA Tournament (Josh Pastner at Memphis is younger by 5 months).  Coincidentally, the next youngest coach (age 34) in the Tournament is Brad Stevens who has now led Butler to a second consecutive Final Four.  VCU and Butler meet up next Saturday in the Final Four.  Their combined age (67) is less than the age of legendary Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun (age 68) who has also led his team to the Final Four.

Shaka Smart’s achievements on and off the court are an inspiration to an entire country.

As a continuing source of inspiration for his players, Smart draws from a 115 page collection of quotes from leaders and philosophers.

In an interview with USA Today this week, Smart shows that he is the one others may be quoting soon:

“Concerns send you home. Excuses send you home,” Smart stated.

“The teams advancing, they don’t look at the glass half empty.

They don’t look at the roadblocks in the way.

Make no mistake about it, our guys believe we can win. I know we can win.”

Let Coach Shaka Smart and VCU be your inspiration to be victorious in your life too. When you are given an opportunity to shine, step forward and make your mark.

Your thoughts?

Thanks for sharing.

About the Author

Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, is the founder of Interview Angel Inc, a company that offers a comprehensive guide and toolkit for job seekers to use in interviews. The Interview Angel padfolio is in use at universities, corporations, non-profit agencies, and local governments.  The Interview Angel product is also available online for individual investment, and is often purchased as a gift for someone in need.


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  • Georgeruh

    We need a star like this to continue to shine.

  • Pam Ross


  • ramfan

    I hope we don’t lose coach smart to some other school. What can we do to help keep him with VCU to finally take them to the top? I love what he has done so far and wish he would stick it out and keep helping develope the basketball program at VCU. This year has really brought richmond and the state together. I hope coach smart will know how much we appreciate what he has done for VCU and stick around for a few years.

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  • Brent Peterson

    Well, it was disappointing for local fans that VCU lost in the Final Four, but great that Coach Smart signed a contract extension. The VCU program will continue to excel on and off the court.

  • Heckbill216

    u of i wants him…..

    • Brent Peterson

      I hope Coach Smart stays at VCU, but I’m sure a school like U of I can offer a lot of money.

      • Jkwillia

        Glad to finally hear all of this has been put to rest, with the end result of Shaka staying at VCU to put in another great tourney run in next season!! Wreak Havoc Shaka!!!’

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