Smart staying at VCU; Illini search moves on

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Associated Press
Thursday, March 22, 2012
— Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart on Wednesday ended speculation that he might take the open job at Illinois by announcing that he’ll stay with the Rams.

The decision by the young coach was cause for celebration among VCU fans and disappointment for their Illini counterparts—Illinois’ search for a replacement for fired coach Bruce Weber has begun to resemble the search last year for a new football coach, when the school’s top choices reportedly turned down the Illini.

VCU said in a news release that Smart’s $1.2 million contract will be adjusted, but provided no details.

He said in the release that he appreciates VCU’s support of him and his staff.

“There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university,” said the 34-year-old Smart, an Oregon (Wis.) High School graduate.

At Illinois, Athletic Director Mike Thomas declined comment through a school spokesman.

Smart will bring back one of the country’s youngest teams. The Rams went 29-7 (15-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association) and were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament this year after making an improbable Final Four run last season.

Neither school would say how much money Illinois offered Smart.

Thomas now continues to look for a replacement for Weber from a field that reportedly includes Alabama coach Anthony Grant and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins.

NIT men

-- Stanford 84, Nevada 56—At Stanford, Calif., Josh Owens and Chasson Randle each scored 15 points to help Stanford (24-11) earn a spot in the NIT semifinals.

The Cardinal (24-11) will play UMass at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Malik Story scored 14 points to lead the Wolf Pack (28-7).

-- Minnesota 78, Middleton Tennessee 72—At Murfreesboro, Tenn., Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins each scored 24 points to help Minnesota (22-14) advance to the NIT semifinals.

Marcos Knight led Middle Tennessee (27-7) with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Minnesota will face Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. It will mark the Gophers’ first appearance in the NIT semis since 2003.

Minnesota, which also won road games over La Salle and Miami in the tournament, handed Middle Tennessee only its second home loss of the season. The Blue Raiders had won 13 in a row at the Murphy Center since an 87-84 loss in double-overtime to Belmont on Nov. 20.

Last updated: 2:23 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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