AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shaka Smart is officially the head basketball coach for the Marquette Golden Eagles, moving closer to his hometown roots in Milwaukee. The school introduced Smart to its fanbase Monday afternoon in a press conference where he partially explained his reason for leaving Texas after six seasons.
While rumors were hovering around about Smart’s job status with the Longhorns, the move to Marquette was a surprise throughout college basketball.
During Monday’s press conference, Smart mentioned the prestige of Marquette’s basketball program. He also talked about living closer to his mom, who is only an hour away from the Milwaukee campus.
“It’s phenomenal to be back, but the reason I came back is Marquette,” Smart said.
Smart gave three reasons for his decision to go to Marquette.
“When the opportunity came about, there was really three reasons for me and Maya [my wife] that we felt this was an absolute slam dunk. Number one, this is a basketball crazy place. This is basketball-centric department. Number two, it’s clear that Marquette is about family and that goes beyond sports. Number three, the alignment… there’s a common vision and it’s a shared vision that I have,” Smart said.
Smart’s answer was mostly looking forward to his opportunity with the Golden Eagles, but he did say those three reasons were a “better fit” compared to Texas.
“I felt like those three factors were a better fit for my family than Texas. I will never forget those six years. One of the things in coaching you learn when you’re at a place — it’s about the people. When you move to another place, what you miss is the people,” Smart said.
It’s wild how quickly the situations can change in college athletics.
Just two weeks ago, Texas and Smart were celebrating the Big 12 Tournament championship. Nine days ago, Texas lost in a historic upset to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to cap off a season of complete missed opportunity. Smart finished with an 0-3 record in the NCAA Tournament with Texas.
In a statement on Smart’s departure, Longhorns Athletics Director Chris Del Conte said:
“I’m so grateful for all Coach Smart did for Texas Basketball, our university community and our athletics department. I’ve enjoyed our time together, really appreciate the passion he has for his team and student athletes, and I learned a great deal from him during our many conversations. I will miss Coach Smart and his family and wish him the very best.”LONGHORN ATHLETICS DIRECTOR CHRIS DEL CONTE
Texas is still searching for its next head coach. The national consensus is that Texas Tech’s Chris Beard is the top target for the Texas Athletics administration.