Shaka Smart attended his first Big 12 Media Day as coach of Texas.
Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart met with the media in Kansas City today. He takes over a Longhorn team that underperformed despite returning all five starters. Rick Barnes’ club finished the 2014 season with a record of 20-14 – 8-10 in conference play – and were dispatched by Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Barnes resigned shortly after the season ended.
Smart comes to Texas with a record of 163-56 in six seasons. In that time he led his VCU Rams to the Big Dance in five of those six years, including a Final Four appearance in 2011 as an 11-seed.
Isaiah Taylor chose to return for his junior year. Coupled with a Top-15 recruiting class, Texas fans should be excited about the uptempo brand of basketball Smart brings to the Forty Acres.
Here are some excerpts from Smart’s press conference (see all of his comments here, courtesy of Texassports.com).
On what his main challenge will be this season, his first as Texas coach.
“I think your biggest challenge in your first year is always implementing your philosophy, your way of doing things. People want to use the word “culture”, your culture, because whether you’re taking over a veteran team or a younger team, whether you’ve brought in new guys or it’s mostly returning guys.”
“Everyone is new to what you’re going to do at that new institution. So the biggest challenge is getting on the same page, players, coaches, everyone that’s part of our program, and us being connected around one goal, connected around a process for accomplishing that goal.”
On inheriting a taller team than he typically had at VCU.
“At Texas, we’re fortunate, in this first year, we have a lot of big guys that we think can be really good players for us and contribute to success. Then we also have a lot of perimeter guys that we can play with, with great depth. So if those guys, again, can buy into the system of playing with great aggressiveness and enthusiasm, togetherness, then we’ll have a chance to do some big things.”
"“As a basketball program, we need to get to know each other. We need to develop that bond.” – Shaka Smart at Big 12 Media Days"
How does he get the players to buy into his style of play?
“Well, I’d rather have older guys than younger guys. We have one of the more experienced teams around, not just in this league, but I think around the country. At the same time, there are a lot of experienced teams in this league. But sometimes guys that have been playing for a while maybe have a certain way that they think is going to create success for them.”
“A big part of a coach’s job, I learned this from Billy Donovan, is to clearly define and hold accountable what goes into winning. So that’s our job as coaches is to get these guys to understand what we feel is going to go into our team being successful and our guys individually having success.”
How can he instill a winning mentality in the program.
“How do we instill a winning atmosphere, winning mentality? Again, I think it starts from being highly connected around having the same goal and the same process for reaching that goal. You can’t have that unless there is a genuine love and appreciation and care for one another.”
“Now we’re talking about deeper stuff beyond even basketball. As a basketball program, we need to get to know each other. We need to develop that bond. The last six months have been terrific in that way.”