HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
Shaka Smart and VCU have agreed in principle to a deal to keep the basketball coach at the school.
The details are still being finalized, but the majority of changes involve "program enhancements for the student-athletes and coaches," athletic director Ed McLaughlin said. It also extends a contract already scheduled to run through 2020.
Smart is 111-37 in four years, the sixth-most wins in the country over that stretch and the second-most for a coach in his first four seasons. VCU also is one of just eight schools to have won an NCAA tournament game each of the past four years, joining Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State, Florida, Syracuse, Marquette and Gonzaga.
Smart's name has come up in high-profile coaching searches ever since he guided the Rams to the Final Four as one of the last teams to make the 2011 NCAA tournament. The Rams' five victories all came against power conference schools.
He was pursued by North Carolina State two years ago and Illinois last season.
With openings at places such as UCLA, Southern Cal and Minnesota already developing this offseason, VCU wanted to give him a new deal to be proactive in the face of certain interest from elsewhere, McLaughlin said.
Smart's decision to stay after the Final Four run earned him a hefty raise in a contract also laden with incentives, and he earned about $1.5 million this season, including incentives.
Whenever the topic of being a candidate for bigger jobs comes up, Smart has insisted that he and his wife love it in Richmond and at VCU, making it easier to walk away from significant raises elsewhere.
The environment at the Rams' home arena, the Siegel Center, has also been a major part of VCU's success with 35 consecutive sellouts and a crowd that feeds off the Rams' intense, 94-foot pressuring style known as "havoc."
The Rams' transition to the Atlantic 10 also went seamlessly with VCU earning its first national ranking in 28 years, staying at or near the top of the league standings throughout the year and reaching the championship game.
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