After a disappointing 53-52 loss to the Abilene Christian Wildcats in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Texas head coach Shaka Smart announced he will be taking over the same position with the Marquette Golden Eagles. The move was first reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein at around 11 AM Central Time Friday, March 26. The value of Smart’s contract with Marquette University is yet to be disclosed, but according to the Associated Press, his contract at Texas was worth $3.2 million annually, with $7.1 million remaining on his contract that was extended last year through 2023.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to welcome Shaka, his wife Maya, and their daughter Zora to the Marquette and Milwaukee communities,” Marquette Vice-President & Director of Athletics Bill Scholl said in a statement released by Marquette University’s athletics department. “We undertook an exhaustive national search, during which we discussed our opening with a significant number of highly-qualified coaches. The interest in our position was tremendous and the market certainly understands what a wonderful place Marquette is to coach college basketball.”
Scholl added, “Throughout the search, one individual continued to rise to the top and that was Shaka. I am beyond excited for our current and future student-athletes who will have the great fortune of being mentored by Shaka. He is a great teacher of the game, while also being a great molder of young men. And I am proud to say, he is now a Marquette Golden Eagle!”
With his departure, the head coaching job at the University of Texas has now opened to potential candidates across men’s college hoops, and one name to keep your eye on throughout this coaching search is none other than Texas Tech Red Raiders’ head coach Chris Beard. Beard is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, having graduated from UT’s College of Education in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, during which he worked as a student assistant for the men’s basketball team under then-head coach Tom Penders. He then received his master’s degree in Education from Abilene Christian University in 1999. According to multiple sources, Beard’s buyout drops to only $4 million on April 1st, should he leave for another school that is in the Big 12 Conference. Other potential candidates to note are Iona’s Rick Pitino, Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser, Arkansas’ Eric Musselman, Abilene Christian’s Joe Golding, North Texas’ Grant McCasland, and (a jack-of-all-trades wild card candidate) Royal Ivey, currently serving as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Of all these candidates, Chris Beard makes the most logical sense here. Not only would he be staying in state, let alone in conference, but he would also be returning to his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. His past five seasons at the helm of the Red Raiders have not gone unnoticed throughout all of college basketball. He took over a program that was led by Pat Knight, son of the legendary Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight, and within the past five years has built them into a perennial championship contender with three NCAA Tournament appearances since. The appearances include an Elite Eight appearance in 2018 and a National Championship Game appearance in 2019, where they fell to the Virginia Cavaliers that year. His overall win-loss record since taking over at Lubbock is 112-55 and has posted an overall .671 win percentage over his head coaching career at Texas Tech. As of this writing, the head coaching vacancy at the Texas Longhorns is the only other one in all of men’s college basketball. The other is our conference rival, the Oklahoma Sooners, whose head coach Lon Kruger retired after ten seasons at the helm, and fresh off the heels of an 87-71 defeat at the hands of the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.
In any case, it will definitely get interesting to see who ends up where, especially since this is the first time since 1967 that both Texas and Oklahoma’s men’s basketball programs have simultaneous head coaching vacancies. Stay tuned to The Texas Horn for more updates on the Texas Longhorns’ head coaching search!