Shaka Smart turns down Illinois - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Shaka Smart turns down Illinois

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For the second straight year, Shaka Smart has turned down a major college basketball head coaching job to stay at VCU.

In a release from VCU, Smart says that he's not pursuing any coaching opportunities.

In the release, Smart said, ""I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university's leadership -- President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors – as well as our phenomenal fans. There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university."

Dr. Michael Rao responded, "Coach Smart recognizes -- as do the rest of the university community, alumni and fans -- that VCU is the place to be right now. He continues to demonstrate his commitment to VCU and its pursuit of excellence athletically and academically.

"Under his leadership, the success of the VCU basketball program and our scholar athletes raises the bar for national research universities and intercollegiate athletics," Rao said.

Earlier Wednesday, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Smart has told the athletic director at the University of Illinois that he will not be taking their head coaching position.

It had been reported that Smart was offered the job shortly after the Rams loss to Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.  Smart was reportedly offered around $3 million a year, well over double what he is making at VCU.

Last year Smart was offered the job at North Carolina State, but turned it down.

After VCU's historic run to the Final Four in 2011, this season Smart and his staff led one of the youngest teams in the country to a school record 29 wins and the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Championship. Backing the Rams all year long was a fan base that packed the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for every game, making VCU one of only five NCAA teams to sell out every home game this season.

Smart has led the Black and Gold to 84 wins, the second most in the first three years of any head coach in NCAA history.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reports that former VCU and current Alabama coach Anthony Grant, apparently responding to speculation he was on Illinois' radar, has said he's not interested in the Illinois job.

Also Wednesday, CBS and Turner Sports said that Smart will join the Atlanta studio for the regional semifinals and finals Thursday through Saturday on CBS and TBS.

Smart was in Richmond on Wednesday, but turned down a request for an interview.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.

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