Texas men’s coach Shaka Smart gets inspiration from another coach, but it’s not anyone affiliated with college basketball. He’s a devout student of all things Nick Saban.
Smart watches Saban’s press conferences and consumes anything that details the Alabama football coach’s thought process. When thinking about Wednesday’s matchup against Kansas State, Smart couldn’t help but reflect on a popular Saban-ism.
“There’s a Nick Saban quote that these guys probably get tired of hearing from me: ‘It takes what it takes,’” Smart said.
Smart said his players have confidence to start a winning streak. “But it’s also the next step of understanding that we’ve got to win all the small victories that go into winning,” Smart said.
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Saban’s message emerged during an Alabama press conference in April 2015. He was talking about a defensive player who was benched three practices after being arrested for drunk driving. Saban used the moment to talk about how today’s athletes deal with decision-making.
“They all think they have this illusion of choice,” Saban told reporters in 2015. “Like, ‘I can do whatever I want to do.’ We kind of have a younger generation now that doesn’t always get told no.
“They always get told this is exactly how you need to do it, so they have this illusion that they have all these choices,” he continued. “But the fact of the matter is, if you want to be good, you really don’t have a lot of choices, because it takes what it takes.
“You have to do what you have to do to be successful. You have to make the choices and decisions to have the discipline and the focus to the process of what you need to do to accomplish your goals. And all these guys who think they have a lot of choices are sadly mistaken.”
That dovetails with Smart’s steady message that he’s preached from day one. “There are certain things that go into winning,” Smart has said at various points over the last three seasons. Of course, that can be interpreted into any number of things on the basketball court and around campus as well.
Smart said Kerwin Roach II texted him on Monday about his defensive statistics from Saturday’s win over Oklahoma. “It takes what it takes,” Roach texted back.
The Longhorns (15-8, 5-5 Big 12) charge into February knowing what they must do to reach the NCAA Tournament. They’ve got to start winning games in consecutive fashion. The win-loss zigzagging must stop for Texas to start gathering real momentum.
The Wildcats (16-7, 5-5) are just as desperate as the Horns. Coach Bruce Weber’s team beat Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and Georgia but has lost the last two. Both teams are in the four-way logjam in the middle of the Big 12 standings with eight games to go.
“To move forward in the standings and to move up, you’ve got to string wins together,” Smart said. “So that’s the opportunity we have on Wednesday. It’s not going to be easy. but we just want to play better. Keep improving.”
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