Is this the day the Texas Longhorns close the deal with Shaka Smart to become the next head basketball coach in Austin?
There's still plenty of thought that it will happen as a Richmond reporter (@Chip8News) stakes out the airport in hopes of catching Texas athletic director Steve Patterson de-planing there before picking up Smart, as is widely expected to happen at some point on Thursday.
After a slow afternoon of news, Chip Brierre received information about a plane that took off from Georgetown, Tx. (30 miles north of Austin), stopped in Stillwater, Okla., and then left for Richmond, Va. with a scheduled landing time of 4:10 p.m. CT. The Statesman later confirmed through a high-level Texas source that Patterson is on the Learjet headed for Richmond.
And just before 4:30 p.m. CT, Patterson emerged from the plane with several overnight bags and another passenger, believed to be senior associate athletic director Arthur Johnson:
Patterson will now attempt to bring Smart back to Austin for a tour of the campus and basketball facilities to establish the comfort level the VCU Rams head coach reportedly needs to feel comfortable taking the job. Smart is also likely to meet with head football coach Charlie Strong if or when he gets to campus, as the two know each other from the year Smart spent at Florida as an assistant under Billy Donovan.
And Smart could also meet with Rob Lanier, the former associate head coach under Rick Barnes who also knows Smart from that year in Gainesville. Lanier reportedly wants to remain in Austin, making him a strong candidate to land one of the three spots on Smart's bench if he accepts the job offer from Texas.
What's the status of that potential job offer? After the Wednesday evening talk was about comfort level, the narrative on Thursday morning switched to the contract details. There are several provisions in Smart's contract that could be slowing things down -- he has a $500k buyout if he leaves VCU before May 1 and Texas would also owe the school $250k if it doesn't schedule a home-and-home series against the Rams after hiring Smart.
Neither one of those figures should keep the Longhorns from making a move on Smart.
Then there are the details for Smart's contract with Texas, which could be for as many as six years and $18 million, right at the top end of the reported $3 million threshold for Patterson. Other reports have the length of the contract at five years.
Meanwhile, Rams fans scheduled a rally outside the basketball arena in Richmond for 5:30 p..m ET on Thursday in hopes that the show of support could convince Smart to stay and with Patterson's relatively late arrival, Smart is still in town.
A significant crowd was already in place as the rally got set to begin:
One local barbecue joint is even making Smart a significant offer:
We are offering Shaka Smart unlimited Brisket and Apple Fritters if he decides to stay at VCU. #shakawatch 2015— Buz and Ned's (@buzandneds) April 2, 2015
Sorry, guys, but Austin can offer Smart better barbecue. It might not be free, but $18 million over six years could buy a lot of Franklin's.