New Texas coach Shaka Smart said his cellphone was overloaded with congratulatory texts from colleagues all over the country. One in particular piqued his interest.
Smart learned Thursday that he had become the first black men’s basketball coach in school history.
Couple Smart’s hire with football coach Charlie Strong, and the Longhorns are only the third major school nationally to have black men in such high-profile positions.
“What we’re about is building an organization of championship performance no matter what those people look like,” Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said. “That’s where we’re gonna be headed as long as I’m here.”
No one has made Smart’s race an issue, but still, it’s yet another indelible moment in UT athletics history. Stanford and Georgia State are the other two schools with black coaches leading the two major sports.
“I take that very seriously,” Smart said. “For me, I grew up and wasn’t able to learn from and benefit from some terrific role models, from some great mentors, from people I could look at and say, ‘Maybe I could do what he’s doing someday.’
“I hope in this role as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Texas, I can play that role for someone else in this terrific state,” he added.
Smart is teaming up with Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith to help form an organization that addresses the dwindling numbers of minority college basketball coaches. Smart was previously scheduled to attend this weekend’s Final Four and speak on behalf of the Black Coaches Association, though it stands to reason he won’t make that trip now.
According to the Associated Press, opportunities for minority coaches are dropping. Now, minorities hold only 22 percent of the jobs in college basketball, down from 25 percent 10 years ago.
“If there’s a pushback because he’s the first (black) coach, of course then there would be more focus on that,” said former UT guard Chico Vazquez, who played from 1996-99. “But it’s a new year, a new age. I’m happy that it’s here, and happy that a change happened.
“But I’m happy that it’s him – happy it’s coach Smart,” Vazquez added. “I think he can definitely take us to another place.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957.