Texas Basketball: Cancelled Season Leaves Shaka Smart's Future Up in the Air
As confetti dropped in the seconds after Virginia beat Texas Tech in last year's national championship game, over 15 percent of D-1 schools were already in the process of making a coaching change. 50-plus basketball programs set out to change direction in hopes of a brighter future.
This year, unfortunately, no confetti will drop to declare a national champion with NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors having canceled the Division I Men’s and Women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, stating that “this decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat”.
While College basketball's postseason was cut short, the coaching carousel certainly wasn’t. Over 15 programs have already begun the journey of finding a new leader for their respective teams. Some notable coaches facing the hot seat this upcoming offseason include Shaka Smart (Texas), Richard Pitino (Minnesota), Danny Manning (Wake Forest), and Jim Christian (Boston). Let's take a closer look at Coach Smart whose job has been in question since the beginning of the season.
After making a name for himself through a Cinderella Final Four run in 2011 with the VCU Rams, Shaka was ready to change the tide for the Longhorns. The young and promising Head Coach did just that in his first season, leading the Horns to 20 wins and receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. As the years went by, it seemed as if the best was already behind. With an overall record of 90-78 and only two trips to the NCAA Tournament in five years, Smart’s job security seemed to be nonexistent prior to leading the Longhorns to a five game win streak and a potential spot in the Big Dance at the end of the 2020 regular season.
With the 2020 season officially over due to COVID-19, it seems as if the coronavirus has perhaps extended a lifeline to Coach Smart’s tenure in Austin. However, when looking forward to the 2021 season, it's clear that Smart’s time at The Forty Acres must come to an end. Smart struggled on his way to earn a diploma which featured only a single NCAA Tournament win, a last place finish in the Big 12, a failure to clinch a NCAA tournament berth in two of the last three years, and a subpar 53% winning percentage. In hindsight, this performance is a major disappointment given the hopes and potential that Texas has had since Smart’s signing back in 2015. Looking forward, Longhorn fans have every right to expect and demand better results in 2021 with a new head coach at the helm.