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Profile of a Possible Savior REDUX: Shaka Smart

Which way did they go!?
Which way did they go!?
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Spring 2011, after years in the wilderness, NC State parted ways with Sidney Lowe and were in the business of finding someone to save us. The media portrayed us as being rejected numerous times, so eventually Mark Gottfried ended up answering the call and has experienced positive-to-mixed results over his 5 year tenure. This series will take a hop in the TARDIS and theorize whether or not we would have been better (or worse) with another candidate from Backing the Pack's famed, award-winning* Profile Of A Possible Savior series or POAPS for short.

*validity of statement under question

(All stats & figures from Wikipedia, KenPom, &

Mark Gottfried's tenure at NC State:

Layman Stats

Overall Record

108-69 (.610)

Conference Record

44-44 (.5)

NCAA Appearances

4 (2 Sweet Sixteens)

Conference Titles


4/5 Stars Signed


Geek Stats (KenPom)

Average National Rank Overall


Average Adj O / Avg National Rank

112.6 / 24

Average Adj D / Avg National Rank

100.1 / 115

Next Up

Texas Head Coach Shaka Smart

In The Beginning

And on the 8th day God created Shaka Smart. Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens man. Two guys around 2011 who were seen as the second coming. Both took their mid-major programs to the Final Four. Both were young and a little unorthodox in their coaching techniques/strategies. Now Stevens has moved on to...ahem...greener pastures and Shaka is the lead at Texas. For NC State, Shaka seemed like the much more viable option to pursue. In fact, out of everyone on this POAPS list, Shaka is the only coach the media speculated State pursued for sure. Smart's stock was so high after the NCAAs, the media would've seen his hire as a coup so now is where it's important to note this original POAPS was written before conference tournaments were even finished. POAPS praised Smart's regional experience as an assistant at Florida & Clemson as well as his unique defensive philosophy. The fear of Shaka (great book title) was his general inexperience with no proof he could build a program from the ground up. POAPS did not look favorably on the potential hire of Shaka Smart and felt the fan-base may have a split view on his arrival. A few weeks letter I'm going to assume that view would change a little bit.

5 Years Later...

Layman Stats (All combination of time at VCU of the CAA/A-10 & one year at Texas of the Big 12)

Overall Record

128-48 (.73)

Conference Record

62-26 (.72)

NCAA Appearances


Conference Titles

2 (Tourney: CAA & A-10)

4/5 Stars Signed


Geek Stats (KenPom) All combination of time at Minnesota of Big 10 & TTU of Big 12

Average Rank


Average Adj O / National Rank

108.7/ 67

Average Adj D / National Rank

93.6 / 28

Shaka's skills seem to be in contrast of Tubby Smith's from our last Redux. VCU was already a successful program that Shaka helped to grow and Texas, despite Rick Barnes faults, will always have the resources and recruiting base to be successful. Therefore Shaka should be commended for making good situations better. His winning percentages over the past few years show that in multiple conferences and two separate programs Shaka can compete in and outside of the conference. Since he missed the NCAA tourney in his first year as head coach, Shaka has made it every year since, yet in the 5 year time frame that we are discussing Smart's teams have failed to get past the first weekend. Notably, Shaka has won 2 conference titles in this time frame (in separate conferences) both with VCU.

Would He Have Recruited Better Than Gottfried?

Hard to say really. While Smart was at VCU he happened to coach a solid mid-major program in a state/region that is ripe with basketball talent. VCU was a school that a hands-on, media darling like Shaka could sign players and he proved himself to do so. Even in one year at Texas, Smart was able to pull in a 5 star and two 4 stars so it is safe to say his recruiting is not an issue. Gottfried has been successful in pulling in more high-level talent, that is undeniable, but Sid & Herb had their successes on the recruiting trail too. You can recruit to NC State. There is much to say that Shaka would have great success recruiting to our program but there is no proof as of yet whether Shaka would be more successful than Gottfried long term.

Advantage: A Wash

Would He Have a Better Offense Than Gottfried?

After 3 Reduxs, there likely are going to be very few coaches who can trump Gottfried here. On average, Gottfried has had better offenses than Shaka by advanced metrics. In the 5 years we are reviewing, Shaka has only shown an ability to produce a top 50 offense twice. Shaka seems to be fairly defensive minded and while his offenses have shown potential to be great, they also consistently seem to be mediocre-to-bad. Mark Gottfried's mutant power is offense, Shaka is not beating him here.

Advantage: Gottfried

Would He Have a Better Defense Than Gottfried?

On the flip side, a coach like Smart obliterates Gottfried on this measure. The POAPS' write-up on Shaka Smart had a mixed review on his defense at the time. Well Shaka must have used that as motivation playing "Hearts on Fire"while going through a montage of coaching "Havoc" and demonstrating how to take charges. Shaka's defenses have been near elite in his time at VCU and Texas. In fact, they seem to be his calling card, as one of his assets was taking the "all press, all the time" strategy of many coaches and modifying it to fit his teams' strengths and weaknesses. Shaka averages top 30 in the country for his defense, something Mark Gottfried has never even dreamt about. It's a forgone conclusion that Shaka would take this category by a mile.

Advantage: Smart


"Numbers is bulls***" according to BTP so in this entry there isn't a clear cut answer here as it was with our last two. If you asked any average college basketball fan who would've been a better hire for NC State, Smart or Gottfried, the answer is undoubtedly Smart. I am inclined to agree, but in doing this research, concurring with that statement has less to do with the numbers than I thought it would. I suppose I thought Smart's offensive numbers would be better or that his recruiting would be a little more equal. Smart is still a very young coach with a dynamic personality and unique style of play. His hire at NC State (after the Final Four run) would've invigorated the program and the national media would've had a ton of coverage on it, mostly positive I'd surmise. Still, Smart hasn't lived up to the prognostications he'd be one of this eras greatest coaches as of yet. In his years as a head coach, he's only got the one deep run in the NCAAs and I question, were he here, whether we'd keep him over a job like Texas or Florida. Yet with 5 NCAA appearances, a 70 + winning percentage, two conference titles and a top 4 finish in 3 separate conferences he can definitely be considered a very good coach. "Very good" for NC State in 2011 would've been a homerun. And while the recruiting numbers are a wash and the offense/defense numbers can conceivably cancel out, subjectively Smart's ceiling is much higher than our current head coach. So in my humble opinion Shaka Smart would've assuredly been a better hire than Mark Gottfried whether the numbers make that definitive or not.

Next Time

Master of the Shocker, Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall