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Shaka Watch 2013: Will Shaka Smart leave VCU?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – It has become a bit of a tradition here in Richmond. Ever since the VCU Rams Final Four run in 2011, VCU men’s head basketball coach Shaka Smart’s name has come up for head coaching jobs at bigger, more established basketball programs.

In the past, N.C. State and the University of Illinois reportedly pursued Smart. This year, national media is reporting two Los Angeles schools plan to woo Smart out west.

Citing “multiple sources,” ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz reported UCLA is determined to hire Smart as its new basketball coach. UCLA, which has won 11 men’s basketball titles, fired head coach Ben Howland after the Bruins lost in the NCAA tournament. Howland lead UCLA to three Final Fours during his 10 years in Westwood.

In the article, Katz said Smart’s make-up might not lend itself to the UCLA job.

“The problem is Smart might not want to deal with the bubble that has become the UCLA program,” Katz wrote. “Trying to fend off the agent culture, the pro-like atmosphere and the overall pressure of being the UCLA coach isn’t for everyone.”

Butler coach Brad Stevens and Villanova’s Jay Wright have also been mentioned as possible candidates for the UCLA job.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Pete Thamel, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show Monday morning, said he did not believe Smart would go to UCLA.

[Note: VCU talk begins at the 8:20 mark]

The college basketball experts over at CBSSports.com say in addition to UCLA, Smart could be up for the University of Southern California job as well.

Reporters Gary Parrish and Jeff Borzello called Smart USC’s “dream pick” as the Trojans new basketball coach.

“People around the VCU head coach have said he might prefer to coach at a step below the traditional Blue Bloods, and USC could be a better fit in his mind,” Borzello wrote. “There is enough talent out in California for Shaka to start getting his HAVOC going in Los Angeles. With that said, given the rebuilding that needs to go on with the Trojans, it’s difficult to see him leaving his gig behind in Richmond, Va.”

It is important to note that there has been no indication from Smart nor VCU that the Rams head coach is interviewing or even interested in another job.

Last year Smart signed a new eight-year contract with VCU that pays him more than $1.3 million a year, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.  UCLA’s Howland was to be paid $2.3 million for the 2013-14 season, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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