In this day and age in the sports world, team loyalty has become sort of a lost concept. Generally it has now come down to two things, getting paid and winnings games. It has just become the common way of doing things and people have accepted it. Because of this new mentality in sports, it is important to highlight occasions where loyalty does take high priority.
For three straight summers the VCU Rams’head coach, Shaka Smart, has been one of the most sought after coaches for big programs. After being hired in 2009, Smart immediately made a massive impact for the Rams program. They made the NCAA tournament in his very first year and suddenly became bigger players in the recruiting game.
Though his profile rose, it wasn’t after leading the Rams to the 2011 Final Four that Smart really began making noise among potential hires for big programs. He was pursued heavily by big college programs but ultimately he chose to stay at VCU, signing an 8 year contract with a base salary of 1.2 million per year.
In 2012 and 2013, he repeated his feat of getting his Rams to the NCAA tournament. Though they did not get as far as they did in 2011, getting the team to the end of the season tournament for three years in a row has solidified VCU’s program as one that is quickly rising in the nation. Their continued success has helped make recruiting better players out of high school and has legitimized a smaller conference school, something that does not happen very often in the NCAA.
Signing that new contract didn’t stop teams from pursuing Smart for their program. In the past two summers he has a received a multitude of offers and has been rumored to be going to countless programs but Smart has stayed put. It doesn’t seem like he has any plans of leaving the Rams anytime soon either.
“I’m the same as you or anyone else in that I want to work at a place where I really enjoy it,” Smart said to the Washington Post. “I want to take care of my family just like everyone else does. I want to work with people that are fun to be around. I’m just fortunate that I have that at VCU.”
I am sure Smart realizes that the kind of freedom he has at VCU, he wouldn’t have that kind of reach at a bigger school. At VCU, he is probably the biggest celebrity, bigger than pretty much all of his players because of his influence and success. Smart is a Rams institution at this point and his word is the gospel.
Smart’s overall record at VCU is a sparkling 111-36, at a small school like VCU, that is utterly incredible. If he plans on further building the school’s program, VCU might become one of the most amazing success stories in the NCAA and it is all happening because of the team’s loyalty to a coach and that coach’s returned loyalty.