The last four years, Texas men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart has talked incessantly about “building a culture.” Presumably, that applies to all aspects of life inside Cooley Pavilion.
For any team to have a winning culture, it requires discipline.
Kerwin Roach II, a senior guard and the Longhorns’ leading scorer, is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Smart said Roach is not likely to be reinstated prior to Wednesday’s game at Baylor.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said it was Smart’s decision to let Roach travel with the team last weekend to Oklahoma. Del Conte cited federal privacy laws when asked about Roach’s status and possible return.
“Coach thought it was a good idea and wanted him to be the with the team, thought it was best for him,” Del Conte said.
Said Smart: “We talked about that a lot. One, it was over the weekend, so we obviously didn’t have class. And two, I thought at that time, it made more sense for him to be with us than away from us. So that was the major reason. This week, our mid-week game, may be different.”
Neither Del Conte nor Smart will comment on why Roach was suspended.
Missing three or four games may not sound like much punishment. But Texas (15-12, 7-7 Big 12) is already considered an NCAA Tournament bubble team. The Longhorns have four regular-season games remaining. UT needs to finish at least 9-9 in league play to feel good about its postseason chances. Roach is averaging 15 points per game.
Smart admitted he wrestles with Roach’s punishment and letting him travel when weighed against the culture he wants to establish. By allowing Roach to travel, Smart is essentially keeping the player engaged in team activities and not a situation where “We’re going to cast you aside,” he said.
“You have to be a big boy and take whatever your reality is and make the right decisions for your team or your guys,” Smart said. “There’s no question you want to be focused on how to get more rebounds than Baylor.”
Roach has been suspended twice previously in his UT career, the last one coming for this season’s opener against Eastern Illinois.
“Nobody’s perfect. I certainly wasn’t perfect around that age,” Smart said Monday. “But one of the things that guys learn in college is there’s a level of accountability for your actions. It’s a tough lesson for some. But it’s a good lesson, a good life lesson.”
Roach, an athletic 6-4 slashing scorer from Houston, is not some run-of-the-mill college athlete. He started the year as the face of the program and is among the most well-liked players in recent memory. Nicknamed “Snoop,” he has scored 1,318 career points, which ranks 20th in school history. Smart said Roach is on track to graduate this May with a degree from the College of Education.
“This is my 20th year in college coaching,” Smart said. “We work with these guys at the age group that they’re at, and you understand that sometimes guys are going to make mistakes and sometimes guys are not all the way where you want them to be at maturity or decision-making.
“But at the same time, as a coach, you make a commitment to them to help them move toward that point and help them grow,” he added. “So you have to balance doing what’s best for the team and the institution and athletic department.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.