Shaka Smart’s Swift Re-Brand 

click to enlarge Breaking up is hard to do: Shaka Smart helps cut down the nets in 2011, when the VCU Rams became the Southwest Regional champions in San Antonio. (File Photo)

Scott Elmquist

Breaking up is hard to do: Shaka Smart helps cut down the nets in 2011, when the VCU Rams became the Southwest Regional champions in San Antonio. (File Photo)

As if getting gored in the heart wasn't enough, Rams fans were forced to deal with reality head-on, at a startling pace. Whoever said it was less painful to rip the Band-Aid right off hasn't watched Shaka Smart board a plane within 24 hours of the breakup and stand at a podium for the world to see, his gold tie replaced with one in burnt orange.

Sure, fans were grateful for the time they had together. Happy for him. Had to do what was right for his family, all that. We will be fine, we will go on, they said. You can't be selfish. Basketball, the team, the legacy -- it's bigger than one man. But did things have to move so fast?

The University of Texas was an aggressive courter whose relationship turned so … possessive. Richmond fans were still recalling those special moments they shared when boom -- the Facebook relationship changed right before their eyes. Yes, it's part of the game. It isn't personal. But that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking to endure some of the sights and sounds of the last few days:

Friday: The 42-minute introductory news conference at the Frank Erwin Center, posted on YouTube. "I'm so excited to be your new basketball coach," Smart opened, to at least one "woo-hoo!" in the crowd. On VCU: "The last six years have been an extremely special time in my life. … It's something that I'll always treasure."

 

Friday: On Scout.com’s Horns Digest, the gushing from Smart’s new players: “One word is just excitement,” Prince Ibeh says. “I was real excited to have someone young and energized to come ready to coach us.”

Saturday: "Shaka Smart's Message to Texas Basketball Lettermen," via YouTube: "As former players, you built this program and made it what it is today. My goal is to build on the terrific tradition that you've established."

 

Saturday: Charlottesville-based Hashtags Clothing Co. begins a marketing push, tweeting: "Longhorn Fans Are Now Strong and Smart!" The "Strong and Smart" T-shirts sell for $19.95.

Monday: "I'm wearing orange right now. It feels good," Smart said on "The Dan Patrick Show." Patrick asks: "What did you do with your Virginia Commonwealth stuff?" Smart answers: "That stuff's all sitting in my closet. … When I've left schools in the past, when I was assistant coach, I just threw it all in a huge, huge bag, and would give it to the guys that were still in the program. So that's probably what I'll do."

 

Monday: Shaka Smart Basketball Camp at VCU, its first session scheduled to begin June 22, is officially canceled.

And perhaps most difficult of all, as reported in the Times-Dispatch over the weekend, that Smart turned down an offer from the Texas athletics director to fly back to Richmond to say final goodbyes: "I said, 'I'm not going back to Richmond,'" the T-D quoted him saying. "'Once I get down to Austin, it's time to go to work.'"

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