Staying PutWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Coaching in college athletics is a nomadic job. In order to move up, you typically have to move. Jumping from assistants job to assistants job before you finally land that head coaching gig. It’s not the best paying, and you don’t have the best facilities, but as long as your gameplan is solid, you’ll get that nod to the next job, step by step until you finally land that gig in the big conference — the big-money TV deal, state-of-the-art-facilities and boosters that do things you’re going to pretend aren’t happening. Most importantly, the level of athlete you’re bringing in is far and away better than what you were getting at those crummy Division II schools. Now, you’re really going to shine.
Except in college basketball. A funny thing is happening in hoops: the smaller teams are starting to win more. In turn, that’s causing coaches to stick around longer.
Take Shaka Smart, for example. The former assistant with the Akron Zips has a great thing going with the VCU Rams, making the Final Four last season and appearing the NCAA tournament againt his year. For his efforts, his contract has been extended through the 2022-13 season. It’s a big message to the big boys in the NCAA: Shaka Smart is not moving anytime soon. He’s already spurned the likes of Illinois, Minnesota, and UCLA to stay in Richmond.
Now, a contract can always be broken (Right, Tim Beckman?), but I tend to think this will stick, and it goes back to my original point: smaller teams are winning more. Just look at the West region of your bracket for proof. If you can win regularly and make money doing it, then why move to what could be a worse situation?
My pet theory for the sudden rush of parity is this: those bigger schools are getting the more talented kids, but they’re not sticking around. The real talent is flexing the One And Done muscle, eager to make that NBA money. For the Carmello Anthonys and Chris Boshs of the world, it’s worked out well. But for the coaches at those schools, it’s a constant hunt to find that next talent, and you’re not always going to win that lottery.
A school like VCU, however, doesn’t have to court ultra-stars. Especially a system-coach like Smart, he’s looking for talented guys who fit in where he needs them. These are guys who will likely stick around for a long time. With that experience and age under their belts, they’re perfectly positioned to compete with the mega-talented, but very young stars at the bigger schools.
There’s plenty of other reasons to stay put in the smaller school: VCU doesn’t have a football program stealing your spotlight. You may get a raise at UCLA, but how much of that’ll be gobbled up by the higher cost of living? Expectations are going to be higher, and the talent you’re going to have to look at might have some character issues that need to be overlooked because he’s simply a beast from beyond the arc. I joked about boosters earlier in the article, but ask the Miami Hurricanes about how that’s working out for them.
Shaka Smart knows what’s up right now. VCU is the darling of the Atlantic 10 Conference — no easy feat sharing the top of the standings with Butler and Xavier (Not for long, both schools are joining the New Big East next season). He’s got all of the buzz on his side, and his Havoc system will have players lining up to play for him. A move to a bigger school means dealing with players that he didn’t recruit, fans that may not give a system the time to gel, and possibly even the second billing behind a football program. He’s got everything he needs in Richmond, and he’s going to let the success come to him.