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BREAKING: Shaka Smart Leaving Texas; Longhorns To Pursue Texas Tech Coach

Shaka Smart needed to be fired. But before that could happen? He creates his own exit - and the Texas Longhorns are already be chasing his replacement

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 3.26.21 …

*In the wake of winning the school’s first Big XIIConference tournament title, Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart should be fired. There, I said it. 

But instead, it seems, Shaka is engineering his own exit ... and things are happening so quickly in Austin that the Longhorns may already have their eye on a replacement.

Let's review ...

As a long-time observer of Longhorns hoops, I was thrilled when Smart arrived in Austin in 2015. He took tiny Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four in 2011, and with his trademark “Havoc” full-court press fueled by Texas’ superior athletes surely he would restore some burnt orange glory and flirt with a national championship. 

But six years later, nope. Not even close. 

Texas’ highlight under Smart: Winning the NIT in 2019. The lowlight: An embarrassing loss to Abilene Christian in last week’s first round of March Madness. 

Smart is merely the author of one of the nation’s most overhyped, underperforming programs. He’s won only 56 percent of his games, is 0-3 in the NCAA tourney (with losses to Northern Iowa, Nevada and ACU), failed to establish an identity and, worst of all, wasted promising careers and NBA talent. 

Texas’ roster during Smart’s tenure has included Mo Bamba, Jarrett Allen and Jaxson Hayes, all playing in basketball’s best league. And this year his team featured quality guards Matt Coleman, Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey, and big men Jericho Sims and Kai Jones. The latter two are also destined to play in the NBA. 

Bestowed that level of talent and not being able to win a game – just one – in March Madness over six seasons is a fireable offense.

This season – with the college-basketball luxury of having his two best players (Coleman and Sims) being seniors – Smart’s Horns were ranked as high as No. 4. But they regressed as the season progressed. Teammates fought in huddles during games. Highly-touted freshman Greg Brown’s immense talent couldn’t be harnessed. Smart’s team was consistently out-coached, consistently failing to create good looks on end-of-game possessions. They won playground games with fast tempos when their raw athleticism was allowed to flourish. They won games where Jones bailed out awful execution with clutch jumpers. And they won the Big XII tournament, thanks to a lucky first-round escape against Texas Tech and a COVID walkover “win” against Kansas. 

But against Abilene Christian – which was throttled by 20 points by UCLA two nights later – the Longhorns were suckered into a slow-down game decided on fundamentals, half-court execution and basketball IQ. 

The result: Texas committed 23 turnovers and made only 18 shots. Smart’s worst year at VCU was better than his best year at Texas. 

My position going into this week? I’d seen enough; this should be his last year in Austin.

The new position today? Shaka is off to Marquette (inside scoop here) and Texas, as first reported by LonghornsCountry.com, is already hot on the trail of chasing Chris Beard of Texas Tech. "On the trail'' meaning, according to our sources, "actively pursuing.'' Like, right now.

*Perspective, personified. Mark Cuban forced Avery Johnson to coach without contract security in 2008, then fired him after the Dallas Mavericks’ first-round playoff loss. 

Jerry Jones did the same with Jason Garrett after the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach went 8-8 and missed the postseason in 2019. 

The Texas Rangers are taking a much different approach to lame-duck coaching, avoiding the scenario altogether this week by awarding manager Chris Woodward by exercising their 2022 option, a sort of one-year contract extension. 

The situations are obviously diverse. 

The 2008 Mavericks were coming off a 67-win season with lofty expectations. The 2019 Cowboys were talented, but stuck on the .500 treadmill. 

The Rangers, meanwhile, are near the rock bottom of their rebuilding. With Woodward entering the final year of his initial three-year deal signed in 2018, no reason to add undue pressure and unrealistic expectations to a manager who will not be judged by anything that occurs in 2021. 

Still, it’s fascinating how Johnson and Garrett were dangled as lame ducks and then fired for not having post-season success, while Woodward (who is 100-122 in Arlington) is rewarded with long-term security for having not chance at it.

*It wasn’t a major deal. But then again, it was better than a “we like our boys in blue” non-deal. 

The Mavs essentially found a replacement for Seth Curry at Thursday’s trade deadline, acquiring 36-year-old sharpshooter J.J. Redick and forward Nicolo Melli in a deal sending James Johnson, Wes Iwundu and a second-round draft pick to the Pelicans. 

READ MORE: Where Does JJ Redick Fit With The Mavs After NBA Deadline?

Though it doesn’t net the Mavs a Cuban-desired “game-changer star” (see: John Collins), it’s hard not to like the move. 

Dallas improves its disappointing, 15th-ranked 3-point shooting and also preserves its coveted cap space heading into the summer since Redick and Melli will both become free agents. 

Redick has carved out a 14-year career by floating to open spaces and knocking down open jumpers. 

Happiest man about his arrival: Luka Doncic.

*Given hindsight, how does Mike McCarthy explain the historically horrendous Cowboys defense of 2020?

“We tried to change too much ... we went in with too much volume,” he said.

Not gonna lie, I’m saving that excuse for my biggest 2021 gaffes.

“Went in with too much volume” should get me out of a lot of jams.

*It’s the day after Thanksgiving 2017 and Adam Darrow is about to teach me a lesson. I’m playing golf at Twin Creeks in Allen with my childhood best friend and Adam, his daughter’s new boyfriend. The kid is supposed to be a hotshot. Played at Indiana/Purdue University, qualified for the U.S. Amateur and scuttled around the then-Nike Tour for a couple seasons. 

Having had a few festive holiday cocktails the night before, none of us felt particularly skippy. But Adam was a mess. Shanking here. Topping there. Taking forever over putts because “I dunno, it’s like I’m seeing two balls.” 

We blamed it on his hangover, and ridiculed him non-stop for four hours. 

Two weeks later, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. 

During his 3.5-year battle he never lost his sense of humor, nor his love of Notre Dame football, St. Louis Cardinals baseball, Nike shoes or, yep, golf.

The lesson he rendered: Stay true to yourself and, even in the midst of unfathomable tragedy, focus on the positive. 

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The horrible disease took away Adam’s ability to walk, then talk. By last week, he could only communicate via blinking. We buried him Thursday, at age 39. 

Moral to the story: Hug your loved ones and stop putting stuff off. Because you never know …

*Aldon Smith’s effectiveness eroded as the 2020 season wore on, I get it. But in a dismal defensive year, he was the bright spot. One of only two Cowboys to start every game on defense, he was second on the team with five sacks. Only one of those came over the final 10 games and Smith, of course, is saddled with well-chronicled risks. 

But without him, who gets after the quarterback? DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory combined for 10 sacks. After that, it’s ghosts. Doesn’t help that veteran leader Tyrone Crawford up and retired. Former Jet Tarell Basham and co-free agents Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban might help. We saw in the Super Bowl how pocket pressure can transform even Patrick Mahomes into a mortal. 

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*34. 31. 29. A reminder that football is physically violent and psychologically taxing and players’ careers are fleeting, those are the ages of retirement of Sean Lee (probably), Crawford and Travis Frederick. 

Andrew Luck was 29. Barry Sanders only 30. And all the sudden Troy Aikman has been a Fox analyst (20 years) for almost twice as long as he was Cowboys’ quarterback (12 years). 

Don’t blink, because they’ll be gone.

*The Rangers host the Blue Jays at Globe Life Field in 10 days. Plenty of time to get to know this team. Chances are, you’re going to need it. Joey Gallo and Isiah Kiner-Falefa and … that’s it. Otherwise, we’re starting from scratch. Gone are Elvis Andrus and Lance Lynn. Get ready for names like Brock Holt, Leody Taveras, Eli White, Dane Dunning, Wes Benjamin, John King and Jonah Heim. Oh, and also get ready for 90+ losses.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Goodbye, Fox Sports Southwest. Hello, BallyBack in the day, Bally’s was a chain of fitness centers. Then the name became synonymous with casinos. 

But TV? 

Sure enough, as of Wednesday the cable network where you get your Mavs, Rangers and Dallas Stars games will officially be Bally Sports Southwest. Other than the name change, it doesn’t mean much. The regional network will keep the same teams’ games and remain on the same channel on your TV guide.

*Another mass shooting. Another reason to post this gun-control column I wrote for CBS almost 10 years ago. Still sad. Because it’s still true.

*A group of scientists got together in Dallas in 1967 and nailed 2020. The Internet. iPhones. Zoom meetings. Surreal. “Most businesses and homes are likely to be equipped with simple satellite communication terminals,” said Francis Gicca, manager of space communication systems for Raytheon, who attended the convention. “The terminals will be links with markets, permitting housewives to dial a purchase, and libraries, permitting students to dial a book.” Kinda spooky. All they missed was the 2020 bit about COVID.

*March Badness. Despite North Texas’ upset of Purdue last week, DFW’s March Madness air ball continues. Metroplex teams (SMU, TCU, UNT and UTA) have won only four tournament games in the last 32 years and haven’t advanced past the second round in 51.

*Seeing a lot of TV commercials where the driver of a fancy new car brags about assisted parallel parking. Hands off the steering wheel. Big smile. We see the car begin the backing-up maneuver and then … cut to it being perfectly parked. 

But wait, why can’t we watch the entire process? What are they hiding via editing? It’s like beer commercials where everyone laughs and orders and cajoles, but no one ever actually takes a sip. My hunch is that it’s exactly like the Austin Powers luggage cart scene: a million little back-and-forths before it’s finally parked. In this case yes, in fact, we do want to see how the sausage is made. 

Dare ya!

*You like blowouts? Tune in to the Mavs. They clobbered the Blazers by 40 the other night. Wednesday they led the Timberwolves by 20 in another easy win. Of course, they famously led the Clippers by an NBA-record 50 at halftime back in December. 

When they’re on, they’re on. Since 2018 there have been 24 NBA games decided by 40+ points. Mavs have won six of them, most by any team.

*Okay dangit, for the last time, is it Donuts or Doughnuts?

*Stumbled upon Jimmy Fallon the other night and thought it was some sorta Twilight Zone repeat from like 1988. Because the musical guest was, I kid you not, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. Hadn’t thought of the Dallas-based group in years. Figured they’d long ago disbanded but, nope, they just released a new album. Whatd’ya know?

*We may be tired of COVID, but COVID isn’t quite done with us. Texas halted Spring football practices this week because of an outbreak stemming from – you guessed it – a group of players’ trip to Miami for Spring Break.

*The founder and CEO of the Texas Roadhouse chain restaurant died last week at 65. Couple strange tidbits: Struggled with post-COVID. Committed suicide. Wasn’t born in Texas. Didn’t start his business here, either. Hmm.

*Mock drafts be damned, the Cowboys better nab Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain if he’s available at No. 10. Or else. 

It simply makes too much sense. Chidobe Awuzie is gone in free agency. With Surtain, Trevon Diggs and Donovan Wilson, the Cowboys would suddenly have three playmakers in a secondary that has longed for just one for what feels like decades.

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*If you’re like me, you’re still trying to figure out exactly what Bitcoin is when along comes this trendy acronym, NFT, to make you feel even more out of touch. It’s everywhere. Even Cuban is tweeting about it. As a public service, NFT stands for “non-fungible token. It’s a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, videos, items in video games and other forms of creative work. In other words, I have no idea what NFT is. Or, for that matter, Bitcoin.

*Inexcusable for the Mavs to not only make the playoffs, but drastically improve their seeding down the stretch of the regular season. Only six of their remaining 30 games are against teams with winning records, and none of those are on the road.

*Before you trash the Cowboys’ seemingly “cheap” free-agent haul highlighted by Keanu Neal and Jayron Kearse, etc., consider that it will be difficult to be more inept than 2020. A year ago they signed the likes of Gerald McCoy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dontari Poe, Adrian Griffen and Daryl Worley. Yikes, indeed.

*Made my bed the other day and then stopped and thought, “Why don’t I also tie my shoes when I’m not wearing them?”.

*Heard a lady in a restaurant this week place her order. “I’m gonna do the nachos.” Do them? Really? Want them, sure. Order them, of course. But what bizarre brainstorming brought us to authorize “do” in that sentence? We are so weird. And, yes, I’m even weirder for realizing how weird we are.

*For all you who constantly decry “Jerry only cares about money!”, put this in your pipe and smoke it. He’s donating $20 million to help build the National Medal of Honor Museum, to be constructed in Arlington by 2024. The museum will honor the 3,500members of the American armed forces who have received the award, the nation’s highest for military valor.

*This Weekend? Saturday let’s pretend not to be 50-something and compete in the Spartan DEKA FIT challenge in the Cotton Bowl. Sunday let’s be reminded that we’re 50-something, complete with ice packs, Advil and quality couch time. As always, don’t be a stranger.