Shaka Dingani Smart (born April 8, 1977) is an American men’s college basketball coach and former player. He currently is the head coach at the University of Texas.
Smart grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. In high school, Smart was a three-year starter for Oregon High School in his hometown. He was a second-team All-Badger Conference pick as a senior and by the end of his career was the all-time assists leader at Oregon for a career (458), season (201) and single game (20).
Smart attended Division III Kenyon College in Ohio, where he remains the school’s career assists leader (542) nearly twenty years after his playing career ended. In 1999, as a senior, he was an All-North Coast Athletic Conference selection, named the NCAC Scholar Athlete of the Year, and among 20 students in the country selected for the USA Today All-USA Academic team. On ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, he credited his personal relationship with then head coach Bill Brown as the reason for his decision to attend the school.
Smart began his coaching career in 1999 as an assistant at California University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a master’s degree. Afterwards, he was hired as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Dayton. He was then an assistant at the University of Akron for three years, Clemson for two, and Florida for one.
VCU hired Smart to be the head coach in the spring of 2009 after the program’s previous coach, Anthony Grant, left to become the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball team. Smart’s hire made him the 10th-youngest head coach in Division I. In his first season, he led the Rams to a 27–10 season and a CBI Championship after VCU swept Saint Louis in the championship best-of-three series.
Smart’s second season began with forward Larry Sanders declaring for the 2010 NBA Draft after his junior season. Sanders’ selection by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th pick made VCU the first school in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have a player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in consecutive years, as the Utah Jazz had selected guard Eric Maynor with the 20th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. The Rams under Smart went 23–11 in the 2010–2011 season. Smart led the Rams to their second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game, where they lost to Old Dominion.
Despite not securing the automatic bid, VCU earned an at-large bid to the Southwest region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Rams were one of the last four teams invited, and were placed in the “First Four” against USC for a spot in the main 64-team tournament bracket. VCU defeated USC and then upset the 6th-seeded Georgetown Hoyas and 3rd-seeded Purdue Boilermakers to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. VCU won 72–71 against Florida State University in overtime to earn the school’s first spot in the Elite Eight and subsequently upset the top-seeded University of Kansas 71–61 for its first Final Four appearance. The Rams lost to Butler 70-62 in the semifinal game.
On April 4, 2011, Smart agreed to an 8-year contract extension with VCU, increasing his base pay from $350,000 to $1.2 million per year, prior to any performance bonuses.
On January 19, 2013, Shaka Smart became the second youngest active coach to win 100 games, in a 90-63 victory over Duquesne.
On April 2, 2015, Smart accepted an offer to become the new men’s head basketball coach at Texas. In Smart’s first season at Texas, the Longhorns won 20 games and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which the Houston Chronicle described as having “surpassed all realistic expectations.” That offseason, Smart received a contract extension, keeping him at Texas through the 2022–23 season.
On May 18, 2017, Smart received a commitment from Mohamed Bamba, the second ranked overall player in the 2017 recruiting class, to play at Texas. The following recruiting class was ranked eighth in the country after Smart received commitment letters from several highly ranked high school recruits.
Smart’s given name was bestowed in honor of the famous Zulu warrior. He graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon with a degree in History, researching and writing on issues related to race and the Great Migration his junior and senior years. Smart received an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and earned a master’s degree in social science at California University of Pennsylvania. He developed a love for quotations at Kenyon. Smart began writing down quotes into a digital document that is now over 110 pages long. He also likes nature documentaries featuring big cats.