Shaka Smart was the right hire. He was the name expected to bring Texas "back" with the departure of Rick Barnes.
Six years later, Smart's legacy is with the Longhorns remains unfinished. Neither positive nor negative, the clock struck 12 on his time in Austin. It was time for a fresh start all around.
Smart left Texas after an early Round of 64 exit to Abilene Christian in the NCAA Tournament to become the head coach at Marquette. Once again hoping to bring winning ways to the school in Wisconsin, the expectations with the Longhorns will follow him coaching the Golden Eagles.
However, while the tenure at Texas ended on a sour note, did Smart throw a bit of shade at his former school?
“I was at VCU for six years, and we had a sellout streak over 100 when I left,” Smart said Monday at his Marquette introductory press conference, per Jaden Daly. “I learned not to take for granted that the arena was full.”
The Frank C. Erwin Special Events Center on campus holds 16,734 fans at full capacity. Due to the regulations caused by COVID-19, the average 2020-21 attendance was 9,779 per the NCAA official documents.
Texas, a state which slowly opened capacity up to 50 and later 75 percent, averaged the fifth-most attendance in the Big 12. Marquette ranked 15th among all schools, averaging 15,145 people per game in 17 home outings.
"We had six great, great years at Texas,” Smart said at his introductory press conference. “The relationships we were able to build. the unbelievable memories. I will never forget those six years."
Smart had two years remaining on his UT contract, worth an estimated $7.1 million in guaranteed money. The simple fact was the price didn't meet the production.
Smart and the Longhorns claimed their first Big 12 title in 2020, only to be eliminated at the No. 3 seed in NCAA Tournament a week later. Prior to that, the team's best overall season came in 2019 with a sixth-place finish in the conference and the NIT title.
Smart finished his time with the Longhorns positing a 109-86 (.559) overall record, a 52-56 (.481) stance in Big 12 play, and 0-3 in the NCAA tournament. The Wisconsin native will now hope to bring that winning culture back to Marquette after seven lackluster seasons under Steve Wojciechowski.
Smart leaves on his own terms. While the writing was on the wall that his time was up, the 43-year-old elected to make it a clean break from the school that offered him first after his success with VCU.
The Longhorns can only hope what blueprints were left behind in Austin can be enhanced by the hiring of Texas Tech's Chris Beard for the 2021-22 season.
CONTINUE READING: Former Longhorn Chris Ogden Joining Chris Beard in Austin
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