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Sources: NCAA Tournament Nominee or Not, Texas Administrators Holding Smart Shaka

Men's Basketball

Smart's US $ 12.9 million buyout is important, but AD Chris Del Conte said, "It's all about integrity."

Posted on March 15, 2019

Highlights of history
  • In Texas, Shaka Smart is 66-66 in four seasons and 10 games below. 500 in Big 12 play.
  • The Longhorns will learn Sunday whether they will sneak into the field of the 68 NCAA tournaments.
  • Once again, Smart plans to have a track and field list next season.

Texas Sports Director Chris Del Conte has been answering questions about Shaka Smart men's basketball coach for weeks.

Anyone who talks about Smart's employee status, the jovial administrator with a larger-than-life personality, simply says, "I'm not going there."

Del Conte knows that Longhorn fans are not happy with the mediocre men's basketball program. How could he not?

On Twitter, fans illuminate Del Conte's comments after each frustrating defeat. Those who are not so familiar with social media still send emails, and yes, those who are really unhappy always know how to use the phone.

Still, Texas will stay smart.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart celebrates Texas' 73-63 victory over Kansas in a college basketball game in the NCAA on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Sources at all levels of the UT administration told the US representative that Smart would return for a fifth season whether or not the Horns go to the NCAA tournament. The group of 68 will be announced Sunday, but no .500 team has ever been a big selection. UT is 16-16.

"If you want to evaluate the teams based on the quality of their wins, we certainly deserve special attention," said Smart after Thursday's loss to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament.

Del Conte approached a reporter on Thursday night and said, "Remember, it's a question of integrity. You can cut corners in search of more wins, but you must have integrity. Think about it during this process.

It's the same sports director who has said publicly that every program in Texas should be among the top 10 in the country and compete for championships.

The Longhorns are no closer to winning a Big 12 Championship than the day Steve Patterson's former coach, Steve Patterson, sacked his former coach, Rick Barnes, in March 2015. One could argue that the program is backing away. .

Smart is 66-66 in four seasons and 10 games below .500 in Big 12 play. He had two first-round picks from the NBA in the first round – probably three at each start of Jaxson Hayes, a 6-foot-11 freshman – and three top-10 recruiting classes. The Horns have not even finished in the first half of the Big 12 standings in the last three seasons.

In Texas, Smart is 14-29 against ranked opponents. In the last three seasons, Texas has been close to the bottom in scoring and 3-point shooting. This season, the Horns are 4-10 in games with six points or less. In college basketball, intimate matches are always decided by a coach.

The reason Texas does not change coaches is much more nuanced than money. Smart is still four years old for a contract of at least $ 12.9 million, all guaranteed. Even basketball champions like Kentucky and Duke would have struggled before rushing into an eight-figure game.

Smart went 20-13 with a full list of Barnes players in his first season. After that, UT President Gregory L. Fenves and the UT Regency Council spent another year on Smart's six-year agreement. It was a sign of support after the tumultuous 22 months of former sports director Steve Patterson.

This decision allowed Smart to agree on the entire season 2022-23.

Suppose Texas wants to pay for Smart's buyout and hire Chris Beard of Texas Tech, who guided the Red Raiders from total darkness to the Big 12 championship in three seasons. The purchase of Beard is $ 6.2 million if another Big 12 team wants it, according to his contract.

Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard questions the referee's call during the second part of an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia in the 12-player tournament on Thursday, March 14 2019, in Kansas City, Missouri. [Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal]

So Del Conte would pay close to $ 20 million just to offer the work to Beard. To steal it at this point, auctions can start at $ 3.5 or $ 4 million a year. This does not include assistants and anything a new coach would want.

Any legitimate coach will have a heavy investment. It's the cost of doing business these days in college athletics.

For Del Conte, who preached fiscal responsibility in the past year, money alone can change coaching.

Men's basketball made a profit of $ 7 million during the 2017-2018 sport year, according to verified documents. The previous year, men's basketball had generated profits of $ 6.6 million. For most of this decade, the benefits of the program have generally exceeded $ 6 million.

Men's basketball in Texas is simply not a sport that can generate the total amount of ticket sales, marketing and turnover needed to offset a $ 20 million expense.

The documents show that football, men's basketball and baseball are the only three sports to have made a profit in 2017-18. The extraordinary profits made by football that year with $ 103.5 million help fund the other 17 sports in the school, all of which are losing money. Even Texas, the most profitable sports program in America, has budget limitations.

UT fans should also not engage in revisionist history. Anyone looking for Barnes to return must remember that this is a program that has won only two games of the NCAA tournament this decade. Texas has not been to Sweet 16 since 2008.

This program has already surpassed its peak of the 2003 Final Four final and the 2008 Big 12 title.

Fans can criticize Smart's coaching sense, but Del Conte is happy to let a person like Smart consider the other issues that she has been facing recently. University tennis coach Michael Center was sacked last Thursday after being arrested as part of the college admissions scandal.

Remember, it's a question of integrity, as Del Conte said.

Sports managers everywhere can be worried about changing coaches during another FBI survey on recruiting important college basketball players. Kansas, LSU and Arizona all fight fires related to this probe. Who knows what to do with wiretap transcripts, unsealed evidence and other potential arrests.

If Hayes jumps into the NBA draft this summer, Texas still has a 7-footer Will Baker of Westlake on the picket to join the program next season. Rookie Courtney Ramey is becoming a solid guard and Jase Febres will continue to work on his 3-point shot.

A dark Texas bench is waiting for the final seconds of the game in the second half of a college basketball match against Kansas at the Big 12 men's tournament on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas defeated Texas 65-57. [Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal]

Once again, Smart plans to have a well-attended athletic list. As fans have found, translating all this talent into wins requires some effort.

Texas is two years away from opening a new basketball arena on campus. School officials want Smart to be responsible for an exciting program in the new building, said a senior UT source.

Whether Texas participate in the NCAA Sunday tournament or the second-tier NIT, the Longhorns still have matches to support. It's Smart's job to help them find momentum.

"You know, for us, we focus on our guys and help them deal with this game (Thursday) and understand what we can get out of it," Smart said.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. E-mail bdavis@statesman.com.

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