College Sports

Texas’ Del Conte: Speculation of Shaka Smart’s job status ‘ludicrous’ during season

Shaka Smart and Texas go into the Big 12 tournament with an interesting NCAA resume.
Shaka Smart and Texas go into the Big 12 tournament with an interesting NCAA resume. Special to Star-Telegram

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte got testy when asked about Shaka Smart’s job status after the Longhorns were bounced from the Big 12 tournament on Thursday night.

“I won’t comment on Shaka,” Del Conte said. “It’s right in the middle of the season. That’s crazy. Shaka’s our head basketball coach. He’s an awesome coach. We have great kids, but that’s ludicrous talk when you start talking about that stuff right in the middle of the season.”

Smart is signed for four more years and his buyout would be roughly $13 million. But the Longhorns haven’t advanced past the first-round of the NCAA Tournament in Smart’s first three seasons, and are in jeopardy of missing the Big Dance this year.

Texas fell to Kansas, 65-57, on Thursday, finishing its season 16-16 overall and firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A .500-team has never received an at-large bid to the Big Dance, but Texas is hoping to become the first.

“We’re 8-10 in conference, arguably the No. 1 conference in the country,” Del Conte said. “We have great non-conference wins against Purdue, North Carolina. ... At the end of the day, the people in the room are going to make that determination.”

Del Conte will ultimately make the determination on Smart’s future with the university.

Smart is 66-66 overall in his four years at Texas.

Smart has done a solid job recruiting NBA-level players. He’s had first-round talents in Jarrett Allen, Mo Bamba and Jaxson Hayes. But that has not equated to postseason success.

Texas earned a six-seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Smart’s first season, but lost to Northern Iowa. The Longhorns missed the 2017 tournament after a forgettable 11-22 season, but returned to the NCAAs as a 10-seed last year and fell to Nevada in the first round.

Despite his struggles, Smart still has player’s support.

“He’s a great coach,” Hayes said before the Big 12 tournament. “People don’t give him enough credit for what he’s done here honestly. Just look at what he’s done with me. I came in, no one really knew who I was ... helped me a ton, developed my game a lot. He’s a great coach.”

Asked why Smart’s record wasn’t better, Hayes said: “I couldn’t tell you why. He wins a lot of big games. He’s a really good coach. I love the guy.”

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