Shaka Smart Shuns UCLA, Minnesota: Stays at VCU

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S. SmartVCU basketball coach Shaka Smart said he will remain with the Rams after being considered as the top coaching candidate for the UCLA and Minnesota jobs that became open when Ben Howland and Tubby Smith, respectively, were fired this week.

Smart was rewarded a second contract extension that runs through 2023, and earns him $1.5 million per year, according to USA TODAY Sports.

“Coach Smart has demonstrated through this process that he is loyal VCU and his greatest concern lies with our program moving forward every year,” VCU director of athletics Ed McLaughlin said in a statement. “Our goal was to present him with a revised agreement proactively rather than wait for another institution to step in with an offer.

“I believe we accomplished our goal.”

Smart’s contract already ran through 2020 after signing a restructured eight-year deal in 2011, when he led the Rams to their first ever Final Four appearance. That contract had a significant pay increase from $420,000 to about $1.2 million.

However, Smart’s conversation this week centered around program enhancements rather than compensation, according to a source close with USA TODAY Sports. Smart addressed chartered flights, training tables, video system upgraded, weight room upgrades and more money for his coaching staff.

The 35-year-old Smart has led VCU to the NCAA tournament the last three years, reaching the third round in each of the past two seasons.

The Rams, who moved from the CAA to the Atlantic 10, finished second in each conference the past two seasons.

But several of Smart’s coaching friends believed he would not leave VCU, according to ESPN.com. Smart had previously turned down job offers at N.C. State and Illinois.

“You’re coming to work every day to hopefully enjoy what you do. Learn, be better and be challenged,” Smart told USA TODAY Sports in November. “I have that opportunity here. There were some great opportunities that were out there, but this was really less about those opportunities and more about my desire to be here.”

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