RICHMOND, Va. — Shaka Smart’s eloquent opening press conference at Texas on April 3 was memorable for what he didn’t say. He never used the word “Havoc.”
Smart will implement his up-tempo, in-your-face style here, no question. But should it still be called Havoc? That unmistakable phrase has become synonymous with Virginia Commonwealth.
Simply put, Smart’s not sure.
“At VCU, we were able to create a brand surrounding that word or that title,” Smart told the American-Statesman. “That helped us in recruiting, helped us with fans, and it gave us an identity.”
In his first expanded comments about the specific phrase, Smart said some have misused the label.
“Havoc was never a defense,” Smart said. “It was a holistic style of play that encompassed offense, defense, a mentality that we had. To begin with, a lot of people got that a little bit wrong.”
Smart said it took three years at VCU before the team played exactly how he envisioned. What about Texas? “I don’t know our team well enough to tell you how we’re going to do things next year,” he added. “So that will be an evolving process.”
On the same day Smart was hired, the UT System Board of Regents filed several requests with the federal government for the right to use variations of the phrase “Havoc” for marketing purposes. Some in the Commonwealth were appalled.
“VCU basketball has a brand. VCU basketball is Havoc,” new VCU coach Will Wade – a former Shaka assistant – told supporters at his introductory press conference. “And just so y’all know, Havoc still lives here.”
VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said,”It is our thing, and as we move forward, that whole conversation will probably die down. Texas will do its own thing, and VCU will continue to be where Havoc lives.”
Legally, VCU owns the trademark to the phrase “Havoc” only on the Virginia state level. However, Richmond attorney Ben Pace said his firm has examined the possibilities and determined that Texas could lose in court if the Longhorns pushed a Havoc-branded marketing campaign.
“Trademark rights are ultimately based on prior use of the mark,” Pace said. His firm, Williams Mullen, does not represent VCU. Pace himself is a Virginia graduate. “If you search Twitter for that in March, all you hear about is VCU basketball.”
In the Barnes & Noble across from the Siegel Center, you can still buy a yellow VCU shirt that reads “Wreak Havoc.”
Think about it like this: How would Texas fans feel if VCU officials applied for the phrase “Hook ’em”?
“We like Havoc,” said Dianne Long, the longtime VCU men’s basketball secretary. “It was a catchy phrase and something different. We liked it. That’s what we’ve come to love – Havoc.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957.