Smart's third game at VCU results in huge win
Posted on: November 21, 2009 11:00 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2009 11:22 pm
The best thing about getting the VCU job as your first job is that it's the VCU job.
It's proved to be a springboard to bigger and better things.
A culture of winning exists around the program.
You're set up to be successful.
But all those things could also be interpreted as bad things for Shaka Smart, because -- as I detailed in a column back in June -- there's nothing simple about being a first-time head coach inheriting a team losing the best player in school history. With Eric Maynor in the NBA, that was the situation Smart walked into, and he knew it. But he also knew the VCU fanbase -- having just watched Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant win consistently -- wouldn't be interested in hearing any excuses for a possible, if not probable, slow start.
"The fans don't care about that," Smart told me this summer, about a month after he was hired away from Billy Donovan's staff at Florida, just like Grant before him. "Their deal is: 'Hey, this guy before you was winning, and we brought you in here to do the same or more.'"
Smart did "the same or more" Saturday night.
His third game as a head coach resulted in an 82-69 win over the 17th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners coached by Capel, whose contract at VCU required him to return to the Siegel Center as a visitor if he ever left for another job. Capel did indeed leave for another job after the 2005-06 season; he replaced Kelvin Sampson at OU. The byproduct (because of the contract) was the Sooners having to serve as the first ranked opponent to ever enter the Siegel Center.
They exited double-digit losers.
Willie Warren missed 11 of 14 shots, including all eight 3-point attempts. The CBSSports.com Preseason First Team All-American battled cramps in the second half, finished with eight points and six turnovers, then sat on the bench with a towel draped over his head and watched the VCU students storm the court and celebrate. Off to the side, Smart mostly remained calm and cool. It was a big win, sure. But as he told me when he took the job, this is what he was brought to VCU to do -- to be successful on a relevant level, to maintain a national profile for the Rams, to win big games just like his predecessors, and maybe even beat one of them, if possible.