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.
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.
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 →
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.
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 →