Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

From hot seat to cool throne, what a difference a year makes for Smart

Jack Myer

At this time last year, the Texas men’s basketball team was flailing through another disappointing year.

The Longhorns lost by 38 points on the road in West Virginia, the most lopsided loss of head coach Shaka Smart’s tenure. Less than two weeks later, Texas tipped off a four-game losing streak to put the team at a discouraging 4–8 in Big 12 conference play. In his fifth season as head coach, Smart appeared to be suffering through his final days at The University of Texas.

Flash forward a calendar year and Smart has his team ranked No. 5 in the nation, off to a hot 11–2 start with impressive wins over North Carolina, Kansas and West Virginia.

“One year ago seems like 10 years ago,” Smart said in a Jan. 11 teleconference. “I think the guys have taken ownership of just trying to work towards being a better team over the course of the last 12 months.”

Last year’s Texas team took a lot of criticism from restless fans for their underwhelming results on the court. This year’s Longhorns haven’t forgotten what that felt like to endure, Smart said.

“There's certainly some lessons that you can take from that as human beings but then also as coaches and players,” Smart said. “I certainly haven’t forgotten that. That's something that we use (as motivation).”

The turnaround began right after the four-game conference losing streak last season. Texas rattled off five straight wins, which brought the Longhorns back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble before the season came to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we have to remember is any time we've been in a certain position before, like winning a couple games, losing a game, two games whatever it may be, (we have) to glean lessons from those experiences,” Smart said.

At the beginning of this season, Texas retained every player from the previous season. The only new face was five-star freshman forward Greg Brown. Smart’s squad is now one of the most talented and experienced teams in the country, and that experience is paying off on the court.

“We know with winning comes a lot of praise, a lot of high-fives,” senior guard Matt Coleman said in a Jan. 7 teleconference. “But we also know how it feels to be on the other end, having a roller coaster of a season and just keeping the mindset of one game at a time.”

Over the years, Smart has become known for his animated style of coaching on the sidelines. The 43-year-old is often seen getting down on one knee to slam the floor or wildly waving his arms when his team is on defense. Smart’s intensity provides the Longhorns with an extra burst of energy, Coleman said.

“It’s good to feel his presence,” Coleman said. “It just creates more energy for myself and the team to want to get a stop or to buy in.”

The Longhorns feel like they are playing 6-on-5 on the defensive end with the talking between the five players on the court combined with Smart on the sideline, Brown said.

“I love it,” Brown said. “It gets me going in games just knowing that he’s locked in, and everybody else is locked in, so I have no choice but to lock in.”

Smart’s contagious game-time energy is part of how he forms tight relationships with his players — something that will be crucial going forward as Texas navigates an unusual season. 

“He creates relationships in different ways,” Coleman said. “The little things matter, you know, definitely from a head coach in a Division I program.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Boncosky, Sports Editor
Matthew is a senior studying journalism and previously covered football, men’s basketball, volleyball and swimming and diving. He is the "undisputed" ping pong champion of the basement.
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From hot seat to cool throne, what a difference a year makes for Smart