The race for Texas's new head basketball coach is on, and is replete with rumors on coaches that are and are not going to be part of the search. Here are the favorites, longshots, dark horses, and my pick for the next Texas men's basketball head coach.:
The Favorite: Shaka Smart
If reports are true that the Texas Longhorns want to have the position filled within a week, Smart’s name is at the top of the list. Coaches and athletic directors often attend the Final Four, and my guess is Steve Patterson will be in Indianapolis, as will Smart. While there, it’s not a stretch to think that Patterson interviews, negotiates, and reaches a decision on who he wants to be the next head coach.
The Darkhorses: Larry Krystkowiak; Archie Miller; Billy Donovan; Chris Mack
Krystkowiak has gone from 6 wins in his first season as Utah head coach to the Sweet 16 in his fourth season. He also has NBA experience so Patterson might rate that highly. Archie Miller is definitely getting a look but might be better placed in the longshot category.
Billy Donovan makes sense for many reasons: he is relatively young (49), and has been with Florida for nearly 20 years…it’s not too farfetched to think Donovan might be looking for a change.
However, he is one year removed from the winningest season at Florida (36 wins) and he will go down as the greatest coach in Florida history. I have doubts that Donovan would leave that behind and try something new. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so I bet Patterson makes a phone call but Donovan stays at Florida.
Chris Mack is a Xavier Alumni who has sustained what Sean Miller built while coaching there, but questions surround whether Mack can build a perennial power in a power conference on his own. I do not have those reservations.
Chris Mack has the same amount of NCAA tournament appearances as Shaka Smart (5 in 6 years) but he guided Xavier from the Atlantic-10 to the Big East seamlessly by making the NCAA tournament in Xavier's first 2 years in the conference. That is quite impressive.
Longshot: Brad Stevens
This is thinking outside the box but it could make sense. Brad Stevens is in Boston but the Celtics are bad. Considering that the Celtics are in playoff contention, the Eastern conference is even worse.. In Stevens, you have a coach who left Butler and is likely going to be fired in the next 2 years. He represents UT's chance to get Rick Pitino 2.0, and would probably stay in Austin and build a national title contender.
Who will win the race?
Shaka Smart is a great coach who has sustained tremendous success at VCU since the team’s final four appearance. Smart is only 38 years old and could be viewed in Austin much the same way that Billy Donovan is in Gainesville. Bottom line is that Smart is comfortable with less of the spotlight (read: Texas is a football school), and would be attracted to UT’s resources and access to a great recruiting base.
Smart is a high energy personality, and his team emulates that personality. His "Havoc" defense consistently is one of the best in the nation: between 2011-2014, VCU ranked #1 nationally in turnovers and steals forced per possession. The Longhorns biggest flaw this past season was the inability to create turnovers that sparked the transition game. That would never be a problem with Shaka Smart.