CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Shaka Smart says he will stay at Virginia Commonwealth. Illinois had offered its coaching job to Smart, according to multiple reports.
In a statement released by VCU on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Smart said: "I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university." Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas declined comment through a spokesman.
Thomas fired Weber on March 9 after a 17-15 season that ended with a 2-14 slump. Weber's teams missed three of the last five NCAA tournaments and this year didn't make the postseason at all.
Smart's Rams were the darlings of last year's tournament, going from the First Four to the Final Four after barely making it in as a No. 11 seed. They lost to Indiana in this season's third round Saturday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Release from the VCU Athletic Department:
RICHMOND, Va. (March 21, 2012) – Virginia Commonwealth University officials confirmed today that head men's basketball coach Shaka Smart will remain at VCU.
"Coach Smart recognizes -- as do the rest of the university community, alumni and fans -- that VCU is the place to be right now," said VCU President Michael Rao. "He continues to demonstrate his commitment to VCU and its pursuit of excellence athletically and academically.
"Under his leadership, the success of the VCU basketball program and our scholar athletes raises the bar for national research universities and intercollegiate athletics," Rao said.
Smart said he is not pursuing any coaching offers.
"I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university's leadership -- President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors – as well as our phenomenal fans," Smart said. "There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university."
After VCU's historic run to the Final Four in 2011, this season Smart and his staff led one of the youngest teams in the country to a school record 29 wins and the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Championship. Backing the Rams all year long was a fan base that packed the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for every game, making VCU one of only five NCAA teams to sell out every home game this season.
Smart has led the Black and Gold to 84 wins, the second most in the first three years of any head coach in NCAA history. He has led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments and has helped bolster VCU's national reputation with a total of 57 games being televised over the past two seasons.
Teague said that Smart has agreed in principle to some changes in his current contract, the details of which are being finalized.
"The agreement reflects Coach Smart's continued focus on his players, coaches, the men's basketball program and its contributions to a great university," Teague said.
Prior to VCU, Smart was an assistant to University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan. He also was an assistant coach at Clemson, the University of Akron, the University of Dayton and at California University of Pennsylvania.
Smart played college basketball at Kenyon College in Gambler, Ohio, where he graduated magna cum laude with a history degree. He also earned a master's degree in social science from California University of Pennsylvania.
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