After six seasons, Shaka Smart leaves the booming hipster metropolis of Austin, Texas and is headed north to cold, dreary, gloomy (at least in March) downtown Milwaukee to become Marquette University's 18th head men's basketball coach. Smart finally enjoyed success with the Texas Longhorns earlier this month leading his team to a conference tournament championship, the school's first in 25 years as a member of the Big XII. That euphoria exited the memory hole just a week later when the Longhorns lost to 14th seeded Abilene Christian at the NCAA Tournament. ACU became the eighth Texas-based school to win a tournament game in the past six years, a list that does not include the state's flagship institution. With just two years left on his contract with just a $7 million buyout and UT courting Texas Tech's Chris Beard, Smart saw both the handwriting and opportunity on the wall and took what is a solid Big East job. A Wisconsin native who grew up just outside of Madison, Smart takes over for Steve Wojciechowski, equally disappointing in his tenure at Marquette. It is a particularly good move by MU's athletic department, who lands a big-name coach still just at age 43. The hire may pay immediate dividends in recruiting, Smart recruited Milwaukee-area product David Joplin last fall, could he follow Smart to MU? As for Texas and the school's grandiose vision of being a perennial power in basketball and everything else Smart represents the latest coach to fall short of expectations over the decades. The Longhorns will swing for the fences again but the reality is the program still looks up to Kansas, Baylor and others in their own conference. Shaka Smart did wonders leading Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four in 2011, he will be more in his comfort zone at Marquette. Should be a win-win for all involved.
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