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

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

Shaka Smart’s future with Texas in jeopardy after another NCAA first-round exit

Shakas tenure_Jack
Jack Myer

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the March 23 issue of The Daily Texan.

Questions surrounding the future of Shaka Smart, Texas men’s head basketball coach, are swirling once again after yet another shockingly quick exit from the NCAA Tournament.

The Longhorns entered this year’s 68-team field as a No. 3 seed after winning the Big 12 postseason tournament, but fell in upset fashion to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian University in the opening round, bringing Smart’s record in the NCAA Tournament to 0–3 in his six years as Texas’ head coach.

“Lots of tears in the locker room right now,” Smart said after the loss on Saturday. “Lots of guys extremely upset about the way the game ended, the fact that we have to go home now. (Everybody is) really disappointed.”

Smart’s previous two tournament exits were equally heartbreaking.

In 2016, No. 6 seed Texas lost to No. 11 seed Northern Iowa on a half-court buzzer beater, 75-72. Two years later, No. 10 seed Texas blew a 14-point second-half lead in an overtime loss to No. 7 seed Nevada.

This time around, Smart was expected to finally get over the hump with one of the most talented and experienced rosters in the country.

After a strong regular season that saw Texas win the 2020 Camping World Maui Invitational Tournament, capture its first ever Big 12 Tournament title and finish the season ranked ninth in the final AP Poll, the Longhorns rolled into the NCAA Tournament with lofty expectations of a potential Final Four run.

The matchup with Southland Conference champion Abilene Christian, which made the jump to the Division I level in 2013, was a tough draw for the Longhorns given the Wildcats’ reputation for playing frantic, disruptive defense. Regardless, Texas was expected to win, and win comfortably.

But Smart’s decision to remove freshman forward Greg Brown from the rotation didn’t pan out as it had in the Big 12 Tournament, and the Longhorns appeared woefully unprepared for Abilene Christian’s aggressive defensive attack, committing a season-high 23 turnovers in the shocking upset.

“We just beat The University of Texas,” said Joe Golding, Abilene Christian’s head coach after the game on Saturday. “Little old Abilene Christian out in West Texas built a program that went toe-to-toe with The University of Texas, and it’s an incredible story. It’s what March is about.”

For a program that has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2014, having fired long-time head coach Rick Barnes in 2015 after reaching only one Final Four in 16 appearances, Smart’s 0-3 record in six years stings.

Smart has two years remaining on his contract with Texas and will demand a $7.1 million buyout if Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte and UT President Jay Hartzell decide to pull the plug on his tenure.

However, finding a replacement for Smart could prove difficult and costly, with five-time national champion Indiana University, among others, already on the market for a new head coach and limited options on the table.

Senior guard Matt Coleman, whose relationship with Smart dates back to eighth grade, deflected blame for the loss away from his coach after the game. His sentiments, while honorable, probably won’t change Smart’s fate, with much of the roster likely departing heading into next season.

“(Smart) built a culture here,” Coleman said on Saturday. “His guys just didn’t play up to their skillset. It’s not on him. I failed him.”

More to Discover
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.
Activate Search
Shaka Smart’s future with Texas in jeopardy after another NCAA first-round exit