Wednesday March 27th, 2013

VCU head coach Shaka Smart has turned down an opportunity to join UCLA, informing the Bruins today that he'll be staying with the Rams, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Smart has let UCLA know he accepted a contract extension and will be staying in Richmond. VCU is expected to announce formally Smart's contract extension in the next 24 hours. The deal will go through 2023 and will pay him approximately $1.5 million per year, up from the $1.2 million he'd been making.

A majority of what Smart asked VCU for was improvements for his staff and program. That includes more salary for his staff and a bevy of things like better meals for players, improved travel for the program and other perks for his staff.

With Smart's name bandied about at job openings at UCLA, USC and Minnesota, his choice to stay at VCU shows his belief that he can win there long term. He's resisted other overtures the past few seasons, including interest from schools like Illinois and North Carolina State.

Smart, 35, got a raise to $1.2 million in guaranteed money after the 2011 season when he led VCU to the Final Four. He's since led the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. No. 5 VCU blew out Akron in its first game last week before losing to No. 4 Michigan in the Round of 32.

He's also led VCU to another plane off the floor, as the Rams joined the Atlantic 10 this season and could be considered for a spot in the Big East when it grows from its current 10 teams.

Smart and VCU have as defined a style of play as any program in the country. The Rams' "Havoc" up-tempo pressing style has become intertwined with VCU's image.

Smart has seemingly adopted a philosophy of, "Don't mess with happy," and has reaffirmed his commitment to VCU.

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