No matter how much we profess our love for Shaka Smart and what his VCU Rams basketball team has been able to do over the past few years, we all knew there was a good chance he would be lured out of Richmond.
And no matter how much that would have stung the city, no one could have blamed him for leaving.
Those of us who follow sports hear the line all the time; “sports is a business.” As a coach, you are in the BUSINESS of running a basketball team. When professional opportunities comes, they might not come again. You absolutely can’t fault a guy for taking a new position he thinks will ultimately be better for his career and his family.
That’s why we, reluctantly, were prepared for Coach Smart to pack his bags when it became clear he was the University of Illinois’ number one candidate. While VCU had payed him well after last year’s Final Four performance, UI is bigger program with a bigger history and a bigger budget. A real chance for Shaka, in the eyes of many, to move up in the basketball echelons.
But every now and then, you are reminded that there is no higher calling than happiness. Shaka explained why he turned down a reported $2.5 million/year offer to stay at VCU in an interview:
“My family is really, really happy in the city of Richmond. We have a great group of guys. We have some of the best fans in the country. It’s just a great situation.”
“A coach told me a long time ago, don’t run away from happiness, and that’s what we have at VCU.”
Music to our ears. If we might be so bold as to speak for the people of Richmond; we’re really, really happy you’re here.