Shaka Smart signs extension with VCU

You can officially strike Shaka Smart from UCLA’s coaching search.

As multiple outlets pointed toward yesterday, Virginia Commonwealth’s hotly-sought head coach has signed an extension through 2023. Sports Illustrated first reported that the 35-year-old will receive a pay bump to $1.5 million per year, up from $1.2 million. VCU is expected to announce the news officially in the next 24 hours.

SI said Smart turned down an offer from UCLA to stay with the Rams. He has also rejected job offers from Illinois and North Carolina State since leading VCU to a Final Four in 2011. His most recent commitment makes it clear that he wants to stay in Richmond, Va., for the long haul.

With UCLA and Minnesota bandying for his services, Smart certainly could have commanded more than a $1.5 million he reportedly will now make. What he got in the restructured contract, according to SI, included more salary and perks for his staff, along with improved meal and travel for his players.

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Kareem interested in coaching UCLA

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel asked former UCLA great and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was asked about the job opening at his alma mater. Skip to around 1:50 in the above clip to watch.

“I certainly would be interested in coaching the team,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It would be great to have an opportunity to restore the program to what it was. Not in terms necessarily of winning, but having the guys learn, get their degrees, and learn about how to play the game of basketball. I think that’s really important. UCLA is still putting out fine scholars, but the basketball program has suffered a little bit.”

Recently fired head coach Ben Howland said in his final press conference that every player who stayed with him for four years graduated with a degree. Abdul-Jabbar’s chances at the job are also close to zero.

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Gottfried hire supported by former players

North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried isn’t one of the hottest names mentioned in the UCLA coaching search, but his ties to the school have helped him stay in the conversation.

A source said that although the former UCLA assistant had not yet been contacted by the Bruins, former players have been supporting his hire. The source added that Gottfried — who worked in Westwood from 1987-95 — would be interested in the position should it be offered, but is also happy in Raleigh and would only move for the right situation. Continue reading

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Marvray, Rice to graduate and transfer

Receivers Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will transfer for their senior year of eligibility after graduating from UCLA. Marvray had 20 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, but only caught three passes in 10 games last season. Rice, the son of the Hall of Fame receiver, had only nine career catches.

Linebacker and special teams player Todd Golper also graduated, although he had treated all of last season as his last and was included during in-game senior ceremonies.

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Jones returning as walk-on, eligibility unclear

Running back Malcolm Jones, who left the Bruins after playing just one game as a junior in 2012, had second thoughts after exploring options to transfer.

After the holiday season, he approached head coach Jim Mora about returning to the team. Mora said he didn’t have a scholarship available for Jones, but would welcome him back as a walk-on.

“Sometimes you get derailed when you’re young,” Mora said. “I don’t think any of us wanted to hold the fact that he left the team against him. We all wanted to give him that second chance because of the type of kid he is and because we believe in someone earning a second chance.” Continue reading

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Shaka Smart off the market?

One of the top names on UCLA’s coaching search list may be off limits. VCU’s Shaka Smart has been one of the hottest commodities in college basketball since his team’s Final Four run in 2011, but the 35-year-old could be staying in Richmond for the foreseeable future.

Multiple reports today indicate that VCU is working on restructuring Smart’s contract, including increased investment into the Rams program. The news was first reported by Wes McElroy of Richmond’s Sports Radio 910.

Although nothing has been finalized, USA Today reported that the school hopes to reach an agreement with Smart by the end of the week.

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Tevin McDonald released for violation of team policy

Safety Tevin McDonald has been released from the UCLA football team for a violation of team policy. The junior was suspended for last year’s Holiday Bowl for reportedly failing a third drug test.

Head coach Jim Mora would not confirm whether this most recent violation was the same was the one that sidelined him for the Bruins’ season finale.

“I’m disappointed for Tevin,” Mora said. “I’ve known him since he was a young boy. Probably met him when he was five. I care about him and I hope that everything turns out well for him. He’s got a great family. He’s got very supportive parents, and I know they’ll find the right avenues for him to have success.” Continue reading

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Full teleconference transcript on Howland firing

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero spoke with media members for 12 minutes after the school announced that it had fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland. Here is the full transcript.

Guerrero’s opening statement:

Earlier this afternoon, I met with Coach Ben Howland. We had a nice conversation about the program and a number of things. Subsequent to that discussion, I informed him that we were relieving him of his duties as a head coach at UCLA, and that we would be moving forward with a search as soon as possible.

Q: What were the reasons behind the decision? Continue reading

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Guerrero: Decision to fire Howland was made today

Athletic director Dan Guerrero didn’t get into too many specifics in today’s teleconference on coach Ben Howland’s firing, but here are a few quick notes. Guerrero took questions for roughly 12 minutes.

– Guerrero said he did not make the decision until he flew back to Los Angeles from Austin this afternoon. He first met with Chancellor Gene Block before meeting Ben Howland to officially deliver the news.

– Howland’s compensation will be the $3.5 million left on his contract. Guerrero said that cost would be mitigated should Howland find another job. As for where the money will come from, Guerrero said: “We have an $80 million budget. We’re incorporate the buyout as part of that budget. … I believe we’ve got it covered.”

– Guerrero did not want to comment on speculation that Howland’s job could have been saved by a tournament run with a non-injured Jordan Adams, but did say this: “The fact that we had such a depleted roster, in many respects, is in part one of the reasons for making the decision.”

– On the coaching search: “We’ll look for someone who can play a fun brand of basketball, but also a quality brand of basketball. … We don’t want to bring in a coach that’s going to average 50 points per game.”

Guerrero said he will not contact a target that is still currently coaching in the NCAA tournament. He added that while college coaches have an edge, NBA coaches will also be considered.

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